January 30, 2015

Blood supplies critically low due to snowstorm & severe cold

LifeServe Blood CenterA spokeswoman for the blood bank that serves dozens of hospitals across Nebraska says the recent winter storm hit at a critical moment and left blood supplies dangerously low.

LifeServe Blood Center’s Beth Phillips says they had to cancel blood drives all across the region as the snow moved in and left extremely cold weather in its wake.

“This severe weather came right after the holidays, which is already a difficult time for us to collect because people are busy with fun activities with their friends and family,” Phillips says, “So this storm really couldn’t have come at a worse time for us and our collection efforts.”

A surge in cases of influenza has sent people to the hospital and added another hurdle in efforts to collect blood. “If you have a cold or the flu, we ask that you wait for all of those symptoms to have passed before you come in to donate with us,” Phillips says.

She estimates the center lost nearly 200 units of donated blood due to storm cancellations.

“Because we plan so far in advance because we have to get staff and resources to a site, if we cancel a blood drive or close early, we can’t make up for those units the very next day unless we see more people turning out for our events,” Phillips says. “We can’t host more events because we are limited in our resources.”

She hopes people will bundle up and take some time to donate yet this week and says it takes less to an hour to donate, especially now with low wait times. Phillips says the actual donation takes only five to 10 minutes to complete.

And while donating blood won’t cause the temperature outside to warm up, she guarantees it will give you a warm feeling. “You’ll know that you saved three lives of people in your community, there’s really not a better feeling than that,” Phillips says.

The center serves about 100 hospitals in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. It normally has a three-to-five-day supply of blood on hand, but Phillips says they are down to less than a one-day supply of most types of blood.

She encourages you to go to www.lifeservebloodcenter.org to find a place to donate.

Organizations working overtime to help the homeless

Nebraska organizations that assist those in need are ready to help on this brutal cold day. Candace Gregory is CEO at the Open Door Mission in Omaha and says no one is turned away from their door.

Gregory says all 816 beds at the Mission are full and people are now sleeping on the floor on mats. Because of the mass numbers they are seeing Gregory is asking for donations of blankets. The Mission’s clinic was also busy Monday treating people who had been out in the cold too long.

Gregory is asking for help from the public. She says if anyone sees someone suffering in the cold to please call the Mission Hotline at 402-422-1111 and ask for the staff on duty. The go out in pairs to locate those individuals and offer services.

The Salvation Army’s Winter Night Watch program is also helping those in need by providing hot meals and warm clothing. Spokesperson JoAnn Bemis says two mobile canteens are out Monday through Friday and will continue that schedule through the end of February.   Bemis says they serve more than 300 meals each night in Omaha. They also distribute blankets and warm clothing to those without.

The Salvation Army also opened four warming centers in the Omaha – Council Bluffs area.

Cold weather and cars don’t always mix

Hundreds of schools and businesses across the state are closed today due to sub-zero temperatures and harsh wind chill factors. Many Nebraskans were also late getting to work because their car wouldn’t start. Bob Fenster is a mechanic at Buchanan’s Service Center in Omaha and says winter can be hard on a car. He says when you turn the key and nothing happens it is likely the battery. They have a life span of about 3 1/2 to 4 years and replacing it will likely solve the problem.

Fenster says this is when a garage comes in handy. He says the temperature inside a garage is about 30-degrees warmer than outside and that makes a world of difference when it comes to a battery. Fenster says even parking out of the wind can be helpful. He says it isn’t uncommon for drivers north of Nebraska to remove their battery in frigid weather and bring it in the house. The battery stays warm and when it is reinstalled in the morning the car should fire right up.

Fenster also advises to service your vehicle regularly and make sure all fluids are at proper levels. He says it is also a good idea to check the air pressure in your tires. Tires often lose air in cold weather and if you drive on a low tire you risk a flat.

Bitter cold returns to Nebraska

U.S. Highway 83 North of Thedford/NDOR highway camera

U.S. Highway 83 North of Thedford/NDOR highway camera

Bitter cold returned to Nebraska overnight, with a bit of snow.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind child advisory for this morning for the entire state.

The forecast for today calls for partly cloudy conditions and very cold temperatures with highs in the eastern and central portions of the state ranging from four above to 10. Western Nebraska should experience temperatures hovering between eight and 16 degrees above zero.

There is a slight chance for snow flurries tonight with the lows dipping down to four below zero.

The weather service expects temperatures to warm to the start the first full work week of the New Year with highs between 16 and 20 above zero in the east, 19 to 25 in central Nebraska, with the possibility of the high hitting 40 degrees in western Nebraska.

Arctic front targeting Nebraska

Bitter cold and snow is in Nebraska’s forecast for the first weekend of 2015. Valley National Weather Service Meteorologist Van DeWald says an arctic front should arrive Saturday afternoon in western Nebraska and move east across the state.

DeWald says one to two inches of snow is expected across the state but the big issue will be the cold.

The forecast is calling for sub-zero temperatures Saturday and Sunday night. The arctic front is also bringing strong northwest winds with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. That will cause wind chill factors in the 25-below zero range.

Temperatures will be back in the teens on Monday.