More than 300 blood drives throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions were cancelled after Hurricane Sandy forced thousands out of their homes and into shelters.
Red Cross officials said that 14 states lost more than 9,000 donations of blood and platelets during the storm, which flooded Manhattan, caused blizzard-like conditions in West Virginia, and left millions in the dark along the Eastern seaboard.
“Patients will still need blood despite the weather,” Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a statement. “To ensure a sufficient national blood supply is available for those in need, both during and after the storm passes, it is critical that those in unaffected areas make an appointment to donate blood as soon as possible.”
Donations are needed for every type of blood, and only a driver’s license or a blood donor card are requested at the time of donation. Any two forms of valid I.D. will also be accepted.
Donors who are 17 years old, or 16 years old with parental permission, must be healthy and weigh at least 110 pounds to give blood.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, blood is needed in the U.S. every two seconds. Blood collected at banks across America is used for a variety of reasons, including for new mothers while giving birth, chemotherapy patients when fighting cancer, and thousands affected by sickle cell disease and other blood disorders.
More than 250 Red Cross shelters in 16 states from Connecticut, Indiana and Michigan, to Virginia and North Carolina became safe havens to an estimated 11,000 people seeking refuge from the storm.
“While it is too early to know the full extent of Sandy’s damage, we expect to be working with a variety of partners to help people for the next several weeks,” Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross, said in a statement.
“The Red Cross response to Sandy is very large and will be very costly, affecting a massive area spanning much of the eastern half of the country. We need the public’s help now,” Shimanski said.
Americans who were out of Hurricane Sandy’s reach are asked to immediately make an appointment for blood donation, as the shortage is expected to only grow in the coming days.