Sudden severe thunderstorms in the Washington D.C. area have affected blood donations in the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region at a time when the nation’s blood supply is already low.

The recent storms and resulting power outages forced the cancellation of blood drives in the Region resulting in the shortfall of over 400 potential red blood cell donations and over 100 platelet products. A pair of blood donor centers in Fairfax, Va. and Rockville, Md. are without power following the storm and continued power outages mean that more blood drive cancellations are expected this week. Eligible donors are urged to schedule appointments immediately to help build the blood supply following these additional losses in the midst of an emergency blood appeal.

The American Red Cross blood supply has reached emergency levels with 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. This shortfall leaves the Red Cross with half the readily available blood products on hand now than this time last year. All blood types are needed, but especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative in order to meet patient demand this summer.

An unseasonably early start to spring may be a contributing factor to this year’s decrease in donations. Many regular donors got an early start on summer activities and aren’t taking time to give blood or platelets. In addition, this year’s mid-week Independence Day holiday has reduced the number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives. Many sponsors, especially businesses, are unable to host drives because employees are taking extended vacations.

Unfortunately, patients don’t get a holiday from needing blood products. The need is constant. Approximately every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs a blood transfusion. Blood and platelets are used for many different kinds of treatments. They include accidents and burns, heart surgery, organ transplants, complications during childbirth and for patients receiving treatment for cancer or sickle cell disease.

“Blood must be available at a moment’s notice when seconds count to help save or sustain a life. We have reached an emergency situation and the blood will not be there without the immediate response of volunteer blood donors,” Donna M. Morrissey, Director, Communications, American Red Cross Blood Services – Northeast Division said in a statement. “The Red Cross relies upon generous blood donors so we can supply blood when and where it is needed. Right now, patients in hospitals across the country need you to roll up your sleeve and give the gift of lifesaving blood.”

Each and every blood donation is crucial. The Red Cross is reaching out to eligible blood donors, blood drive sponsors and community leaders to ask them to recruit blood donors to help meet the needs of patients in communities across the United States.