Hurricane Irene has affected blood donations along the East Coast at a time when the nation's blood supply is already low.

Since Hurricane Irene began its path along the East Coast, the storm has forced the cancellation of nearly 60 American Red Cross blood drives, resulting in the shortfall of more than 1,500 units of blood and the numbers could increase this week while areas deal with the storm's aftermath.

For those areas not heavily impacted by the storm, the Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations and asks that community members consider donating blood in affected areas, once it is safe to do so. Blood has a limited shelf life and platelets have a shelf-life of just five days.

"It is imperative that we are always prepared with enough blood on hand to meet the needs of patients," stated Donna M. Morrissey, director of communications, American Red Cross – Northeast Division. "We encourage all those who are eligible to help make up the shortfall caused by Hurricane Irene. It's the blood that is already on the shelves that helps save lives before, during and after a disaster."

The Red Cross is still working to stabilize the blood supply after our summer shortages and with a holiday weekend approaching, the need continues.

Across the country, blood centers are struggling to keep pace with demand. Nationwide, around 44,000 blood donations are needed each and every day to meet the needs of accident victims, cancer patients, and children with blood disorders. These patients and others rely on blood products during their treatment.

When disaster strikes, this need does not diminish, even though blood donors may find it difficult or impossible to get to a convenient donation opportunity. If collections are negatively impacted by a disaster, the long-term needs of these patients could also be affected.

To schedule an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit us online at redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.