Hurricane Florence has left the American Red Cross with an urgent need for blood, with reserves at critical levels.
In a critical situation, the agency is taking in about as much through donations as it is sending out to health care providers, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Patty Corvaia, who warned of a worsening supply situation earlier this summer, as fewer people were around to donate blood, due to college breaks, vacations and summer holidays.
Corvaia said Florence not only forced the Red Cross to cancel all blood drives in the Southeast during the storm, but it also destroyed at least 5,600 units of blood already in the coffers.
"We knew that the track of the hurricane didn’t look good, so in advance, we looked to the communities that were hit and moved blood down there," Corvaia said Tuesday. "Then, once the hurricane hit, we had to cancel the blood drives and around 5,600 units of blood were lost."
The system was already stressed before Florence, reaching emergency levels where the agency was dispensing more blood than it was taking in. Corvaia stressed the need for those who wouldn't normally consider donating to look at the next available blood drives, which can be found by zip code on the Red Cross website.
In emergency blood supply situations, health care institutions often are forced to make triage choices, such as postponing elective surgeries that require blood transfusions.
"We were recovering from the shortage over the summer, and then this hit," Corvaia said. "People not affected by the hurricane should try to help out."