Throughout the past day and a half the American Red Cross has been helping people in 19 states offering food and shelter to those who have been displaced due to the massive winter storm. We opened 73 shelters yesterday nationwide to help people affected by this large-scale storm which buried the country in ice and snow from the Rocky Mountains to Maine. In the Chicago area alone, more than 360 people spent the night in 10 Red Cross shelters throughout our region.
Hundreds of people were stranded in their cars on Lake Share Drive in Chicago last night, when the road was closed due to unsafe driving conditions, blinding snow and large waves splashing out of Lake Michigan and spilling onto the roadway.
Chicago Police and Fire personnel and National Guard members went car to car to get stranded motorists on warming buses and to take them to a nearby Red Cross shelter at Malcolm X College in Chicago. Many had been stranded in their cars for several hours. The Chicago Tribune released a crowd sourcing tool to help people solve blizzard related problems and we did our best to aid in this effort through our twitter feed, @chicagoredcross.
American Red Cross workers greeted the 340 weary motorists, many arriving in the middle of the night by ambulance, bus or fire truck and provided them with hot coffee and snacks. In a large open room with rows of Red Cross blanket covered cots, the motorists-a doctor, a teacher and a cab driver among them, gathered to tell their stories, get warm and discuss ways to get their abandoned cars back and how to best reunite with their families. Red Cross workers provided warm clothing and toiletries to the shelter residents and diapers and teddy bears for families with small children. The most commonly fulfilled request of the evening? Socks.
Barbie, a preschool teacher from Wrigleyville was stranded in her car for several hours. Upon arrival at the shelter she was offered water, coffee, blankets, food and a cot by the Red Cross volunteers. “I cannot tell you how thankful I am that the Red Cross was there. I am still in awe about this whole experience, but the Red Cross support was the shining moment in my night.”
At last the group was able to wind down from their ordeal and get some rest on the cots in the shelter. Many stayed for a breakfast served by the Red Cross the next morning. As of mid-day today there were still a few dozen people there enjoying lunch provided by Red Cross volunteers and staying safe from the hazardous conditions outside. As for the Red Cross? We’ll be at shelters today with blankets, food, hugs and comfort for people who need us. Visit the American Red Cross web site and click on “find a shelter” call 1 800 RED CROSS (1 800 733 2767) to find a location near you. Follow the Red Cross on twitter at @redcross and @chicagoredcross locally for up to date information on our response to the blizzard.
Here’s some information we think you may need in the next few days. It focuses on power outage safety and how to minimize food spoilage etc. Stay safe and warm everyone.
Written by Martha Carlos and Kendall Knysch