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Emergency Responders Prepared for Worst as Storm Hits

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- As cities across the United States brace for the worst, emergency departments race to prepare for severe winter weather rolling across the country.

Chicago is among those cities that have begun preparations for the storm. Dr. Christian Theodosis at the University of Chicago Hospital said his institution has been making preparations including “discharging patients early from the hospital” and “canceling cases that are elective.”  Staff there are setting up beds in case they are unable to leave once the storm picks up.

Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said he expects vulnerable populations such as the elderly and the homeless to increase significantly. “In the last two days we’ve had a huge surge in the emergency department ... where we usually see about 250 patients we hit over 300 and that especially for the day of the week we really were kind of surprised ... a lot of them were saying 'I have an appointment later this week but I am worried I won’t be able to get to my doctor,'" said Khare.
In Dallas, where the storm has already hit, Chair of Emergency Medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dr. Paul Pepe described the local conditions as the “worst case scenario,” and noted an overnight rain that froze to ice when the cold swept through at dawn. “Everything is completely frozen ... I’m looking at a car wreck right now," Pepe told ABC.

The National Guard has also dispatched large numbers in preparation for the storm. According to new figures, more than 1,200 citizen soldiers and airmen have been called out in five states including Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. The states of Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana have put the National Guard on alert but have not yet dispatched additional units.

FEMA has said they are prepared to aid emergency responders with emergency commodities including more than 5 million liters of water, 3 millions meals, 500,000 blankets, 110,000 cots and more than 500 power generators.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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