Only a few thousand residents in the Pacific Northwest remain without power today, reports the New York Times, down from more than 1 million during the peak outages after the biggest windstorm the region has experienced in more than a decade struck late last week.
Hurricane-strength winds and rain prompted Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire to declare a state of emergency last weekend while temperatures dropped. As many homes became uninhabitable due to flooding or downed power lines and trees, residents looked to the American Red Cross for assistance.
The King and Kitsap County chapter of the Red Cross immediately opened multiple shelters over the weekend. A total of six shelters were opened and Red Cross volunteers served nearly 3,000 meals and snacks. More than 500 people have occupied the shelters overnight since the storm hit, most of whom did not have power in their homes.
The chapter office itself was impacted by power, phone and internet outages making the response effort especially challenging. Working with local government and non-government partners, the King and Kitsap County chapter offered logistical support to another 12 non-Red Cross shelters opened in the region. The chapter also provided cots and blankets.
“The real success here is that not only did we make sure that the people who needed help got it, but also the amazing coordination and partnership with government and non-government partners,” said Stephanie Schoo of the King and Kitsap County chapter. “We have been in constant communications with the City of Seattle and the King County and the Kitsap County Departments of Emergency Management and have had total cooperation in opening all shelters in King and Kitsap counties.”
A tragic result of the storms has been an increase in the number of carbon monoxide poisonings in the area. Generators and charcoal grills can produce the colorless, odorless gas that is poisonous to humans and animals. Carbon monoxide, known by the chemical symbol of CO, displaces oxygen in the blood and can have a variety of affects on people based on its concentration in the air and amount of exposure.
The American Red Cross reminds you to take these steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Follow manufacturer's instructions regarding the specific location where to install it. Make sure the alarm is not covered up or blocked by furniture or draperies, and avoid corners where air does not circulate.
- Be sure to test it at least once a month.
- DO NOT use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
- Only burn charcoal outdoors, never inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
- If you use a fuel-burning appliance for approved indoor use such as a heater, make sure it is vented to the outdoors following manufacturer's instructions. Do not use an unvented fuel-burning appliance in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
- Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
- Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
- Choose properly sized wood-burning stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood-burning stoves fit tightly.
- Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer's instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by professionals. A carbon monoxide alarm can provide added protection, but is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO.
- Always make sure to turn off any gas-powered engine (car, truck, motorcycle, ATV, lawn mower, chain saw or generator) inside an attached garage or basement. Even if the garage door is open, you still can be affected or killed by carbon monoxide. If you must test the engine, take it outdoors before starting it.
- Before disaster strikes, have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating system, including furnaces, flues, and chimneys, annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
For more information on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the event of a winter storm, visit the Get Prepared section of redcross.org or contact your local chapter.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.