• Lake Effect and Ice Storms: The Right and Left Jabs of Winter

    Winter storm Hektor is raising heck this week, sweeping snow and ice from the Ohio Valley clear down to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, while weather-weary New Yorkers are still digging out from up to 5 feet of lake-effect snow dumped along the eastern shores of Lake Ontario last weekend. Throughout the East, Midwest, and South area officials are urging residents to prepare for extreme cold, power outages, and road closures that could last for days.

    Every winter we hear about them: lake-effect snowfall and ice storms—the one-two punch of winter weather that affects millions. But what are these brutal weather phenomena, and what destruction do they leave in their wake?

    What is a Lake-Effect Storm?

    Folks living on the eastern and southern shores of the Great Lakes are quite familiar with the dreaded “Lake Effect,” as are residents of northern Utah living east of the Great Salt Lake. In fact, wherever a large body of water meets a blast of cold air, you have the recipe for a dumping of lake-effect snow. Caused by simple physics, these uncommonly heavy snowfalls occur when warm, moist air over a lake rises into a moving front of cold air. As this moisture lifts, it cools, condenses, and then falls as snow, and lots of it…often as much as 5 inches an hour for several hours.
    Just before last Thanksgiving, Buffalo, New York was pounded by just such a lake-effect storm, receiving up to 5 feet of snow in only 24 hours. Cars were buried, roofs collapsed, and roads were closed. Life came to a standstill for everyone except the snowplow drivers.

    Lake Effect Snow: How It Works

    How are Ice Storms Different from Lake Effect Storms?

    As dramatic as lake-effect snowstorms can be, ice storms are even more destructive. Ice storms are caused by conditions almost exactly opposite those of lake-effect storms. They occur when warm, moist air above moves over a cold air mass below. As the moisture above turns to rain, it falls through the cold air, becoming super-cooled until it hits the cold ground. Immediately the rain turns to ice, coating everything including roads, trees, and power lines. Havoc on the freeway, downed power lines, and trees falling onto roads and houses are only the beginning of an ice storm’s chaos. Unable to open doors, people become trapped in their cars. Crops are severely damaged. Walking outdoors is near impossible.
    If the inconvenience of such weather events is not bad enough, these types of storms become a real health hazard. Thousands of injuries occur on the highway, as well as the result of falls on ice and snow. High winds and cold temperatures often lead to hypothermia and frostbite, particularly for those trapped in their cars, or at home without heat and power. Risk from these hazards increases as people are forced to venture into the storm to find help.

    Freezing Rain: How It Works

    So What Can You Do to Stay Safe, Fed, and Warm?

    While the health and welfare of thousands are threatened by lake-effect and ice storms every winter, many endure them well. Those who thrive best are those best prepared. A three-day store of easy-to-prepare food and water will relieve concerns about leaving home to stay fed. Emergency lighting and a heater with fuel will be warmly welcomed during extended power outages. And a portable kit filled with food, water light, and heat in the car and at the office will make both places much more pleasant until it’s safe to come home.

    For all, it’s wise to remember: wherever you are, bad weather will eventually find you, too. Be Prepared.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disasters, Current Events, Winter

  • Preparedness in the News: 5 Things to Know this Week (Jan 4 to Jan 9 2015)

    View in Amarillo Texas Feb 25 2013 - NWS-Amarillo

    View in Amarillo, Texas on Feb. 25, 2013. (Credit: NWS-Amarillo)

    Here are five need-to-know news stories in the world of emergency preparedness for the week of January 4 to January 9.

    1. Weather Channel Teaches Blizzard Facts and Myths

    Amidst turbulent snowstorms across the United States, the Weather Channel released an infographic explaining the true definition of the term “blizzard” (did you know we’ve all been misusing the term all this time?) and providing little known blizzard facts, such as the existence of a “blizzard alley” across the Midwest. Read more at www.weather.com.
    Don’t forget to stock up on hand warmers and blankets, and snag a portable, propane-powered heater in case of power or gas outages that knock the heat out at home.
    For more winter preparedness tips, check out these articles.

    2. California health officials link measles outbreak to Disneyland

    Officials have linked at least nine cases of measles to Disneyland and California Adventure. Three more people are suspected of also carrying the disease. Those ill visited the popular theme parks in late December. Officials are urging those who have visited either park between December 15 and 20 who have symptoms to contact a health care provider immediately. Read more at www.reuters.com.
    Protect yourself and your family from outbreaks through proper vaccinations, good sanitation practices, and knowledge of first aid skills. And be sure to keep your first aid kits well-stocked so you can deal with wounds, burns, and breaks at home or on the go.

    3. President Obama Signs Mississippi Disaster Declaration

    The president has declared a major disaster in Mississippi following a series of tornadoes and severe storms on December 23. Federal funds will be provided to state and local entities for emergency work in Marion County and hazard mitigation across the state. Read more at www.whitehouse.gov.
    For tips on tornado preparedness, look here. Think ahead of time where you’ll go in case of a tornado, hurricane, or severe storm, and check out this article for ideas on what to keep in your storm shelter or safe room.

    4. ‘Culture of preparedness’ necessary to prevent disasters before they happen in Seychelles

    The Republic of Seychelles’ President James Michel is asking the 90,000 island inhabitants to develop a culture of preparedness to help prevent disasters before they occur. Severe weather caused flooding and landslides last weekend on the country’s largest islands. The Republic of Seychelles consists of 115 islands and lies in the Indian Ocean east of Kenya and Tanzania. Read more at www.seychellesnewsagency.com.
    Learn how to prepare for floods here. An emergency kit is always a great starting point for any disaster. Work gloves, tools, and your own power supply can also be pretty crucial in the days after a flood.

    5. UCSF professor shares quake preparedness tips

    Associate Professor of Medicine Matthew Springer of UC San Francisco spoke to a group earlier this week on how to prepare for an earthquake. Springer lectured on the importance of seeking shelter from falling objects underneath something sturdy, as well as building an emergency supply kit. Read more at www.napavalleyregister.com.

    Find Earthquake preparedness tips for before, during, and after a quake here. If you have to evacuate from home after a quake because it has become unsafe, you’ll be glad to have an emergency kit in your car and an evacuation plan already in place.

     

    More Headlines From Around the Globe This Week:
    Cold weather preparedness for your home
    Hyogo to dig wells at schools designated as disaster shelters to ensure water access
    Red Cross to offer disaster preparedness training
    Wind chills so cold in Midwest they could kill
    Nine earthquakes rattle North Texas in under 24 hours

    -- Caroline

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Preparedness In The News, Current Events

  • How NOT to Get the Flu

    How NOT to Get the Flu

    When Gwen Zwanziger’s teenaged daughter came down with the flu last month, she did everything she was supposed to: had her checked at the local clinic, kept her hydrated, and insisted on plenty of rest. So when Shannon passed away a week later, Gwen was not only heartbroken, but baffled.

    “I just cannot figure out why she died from this,” she said in a recent interview with Indiana's Fox59.

    Though we’re not even halfway through flu season yet, we’re already hearing troubling stories, like the Zwanzigers’, and even more troubling numbers. At the time of writing, 15 American children have succumbed to the common illness since fall of 2014—a statistic that has parents understandably spooked.

    Part of what’s at issue this particular flu season is a timing glitch. Viruses mutate regularly, but this virulent strain mutated just after the vaccine was completed, making the vaccine ineffective against it. Experts stress that the vaccine is still worthwhile and explain that each year, the vaccine is newly redesigned and covers several, but never all, strains of influenza.

    Additionally, some context might help ease fears. The CDC’s definition of an “epidemic” depends on the ratio between cases of the disease and deaths from the disease. Because the number of cases changes as the season progresses, that percentage fluctuates, creeping above and falling below epidemic level (7.7%) sometimes several times in a year.

    Not only that, but the numbers the CDC deals with are only marginally reliable. Pediatric deaths from disease are required by law to be reported to the government agency, but adult deaths are not. So, while the elderly are actually more vulnerable than children, we have no really fantastic way of knowing how deadly any bug actually is.

    That doesn’t really help, does it? Okay, let’s talk about some stuff that does.

    Across the board, expert advice falls into the categories outlined by flu.gov’s three-pronged approach to flu prevention. Let’s walk through each of those.

    1. Get the flu shot.

    Despite all the problems with the 2014 version, the flu vaccine is still the best way to avoid getting the flu. While a shot in the arm may not be your favorite way to spend a morning, the sore muscles are worth it! And as for that historical worry about getting the flu from a flu shot, you can cross that off your list of things to worry about. The vaccine is made from either dead or severely weakened viruses that can’t survive the warm temperatures of the inner body beyond the nose. No excuses!

    2. Consider antiviral medications.

    If you know you’ve been exposed to a flu virus, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, though they’re usually reserved for those especially at risk. Antiviral meds are a bit controversial—inconclusive studies, worrisome side effects, and the larger risk of breeding stronger and more drug resistant viruses—so this ought to be considered as only a last resort.

    3. Take common-sense precautions.

    No offense to the human race, but this is generally where our efforts break down. I can say that because I’ve spent months now taking care of my very small children (two year-olds are not known for their common sense) who have contracted every single cold virus in existence this season! I shudder in horror every time my toddler moves her thumb toward her mouth, and my preschooler thinks all the world is his sensory bin—especially those lovely grooves on the underside of restaurant highchairs. Gah!

    While my impulse is to douse my children in hand sanitizer every five minutes, there are more practical strategies. Here’s the official tip list from flu.gov:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub or hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
    • Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
    • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

    Want some other smart ideas? Here are a handful of doctors’ recommendations to make staying healthy a little easier:
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or anything else that messes with sleep patterns.
    • Carry your own pen, water bottle, or anything else you might need on an outing so as to avoid handling something that a thousand other people have touched.
    • If touching stuff is inevitable—say, at the gym or the grocery store—carry your own sanitizing wipes.
    • Clean a little more frequently. Both at home and in the office, certain items get more love than others—door, fridge, and microwave handles; copier or elevator buttons; phones and remotes—and could use a wipe down every couple of days.
    • My doctor is a big fan of nasal irrigation; and either as treatment or prevention, it works wonders to flush out impurities.

    And finally, don’t forget to check our website for gear that could help keep everyone in your house safe and healthy. Our pandemic supplies include everything from hand sanitizer and respirator masks to biohazard waste bags. And the pandemic protection kit fits everything you might need in a handy 4-gallon bucket.

    If better health is one of your new year’s resolutions, start out right with smart prevention practices! Keep yourself and your family safe this season, and let us know if you have any other tips and tricks for keeping the flu at bay.

     

    --Stacey

     

     

    Sources:

    http://fox59.com/2014/12/31/teens-death-shows-horror-of-flu-epidemic/

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2003/12/outbreaks_vs_epidemics.html

    http://www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/prevention/

    http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20752945_21,00.html

    http://www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/vaccination/

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/01/should-i-take-tamiflu-to-treat-the-flu/index.htm

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Current Events, First Aid

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