The recent string of severe weather has taken its toll on western Arkansas emotionally with the loss of lives, and financially with early property damage estimates in the billions of dollars, and it’s not over yet.

But one area that has been hit hard is the Arkansas Blood Institute. Those across the area who have been injured or critically wounded by the recent storms are draining their reserves of blood.

“Our recent blood drives have performed a little lower than we had hoped for, and it looks like a lot of it was due to the bad weather, and it looks like we’re in for more,” said Danny Cervantes, regional donor recruitment director for the Arkansas Blood Institute.

Adding to the problem is the timing, Cervantes said. Not only do the storms take a toll on the Blood Institute’s reserves, but summer is just around the corner.

“The scary thing about it is, going into the summer months, these next few weeks are really critical for blood centers across the country,” added Cervantes.

According to Cervantes, blood centers rely on mobile donations from schools and businesses. But with summer vacation, many schools are closed, and working parents save up their vacation hours specifically for summer to distract their bored kids with long road trips.

The problem is compounded even further because the Arkansas Blood Institute has recently become the provider for even more hospitals in central Arkansas, including Baptist Health Medical Center, CHI St. Vincent, Arkansas Heart Hospital and all other major hospitals in Little Rock, Cervantes notes.

“When the severe weather hits, people aren’t donating at that time, so the following weeks are when we start feeling it in our reserves, so even though the bad weather was two weeks ago, right now is when it gets to be a bit more hectic for us because we’re using up the supply that we had with no new donations to take its place,” said Cervantes.

The Blood Institute is also preparing to launch a “Keep It Local” campaign for blood donations.

“We want our communities to know that when we have blood drives in our communities, we serve our local hospitals first, and then we serve our communities regionally,” said Cervantes. “We serve hospitals even all through Oklahoma, even if people donate in Arkansas. We’ve sent blood, recently, as far as the Texas panhandle.”

To find out more on how and where to donate, contact the Arkansas Blood Institute at (479) 431-5900, or log on to www.arkbi.org.