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  • How Preparing Early Helped Against Hurricane Patricia and Typhoon Koppu

    In the last three months, hurricanes hit western Mexico and Luzon Island in the Philippines.

    Patricia - Trees Blowing - Preparing Early via LA Times

    After both hurricanes, the death toll and damage were far less than feared. Hurricane Patricia, a storm equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane in the U.S., hit western Mexico on October 24. Wind and water destroyed an estimated 3,500 buildings as well as crops. But as of October 26, only six deaths had been reported.

    Typhoon Koppu, which struck the Philippines on October 18, was the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. In the Philippines, the typhoon submerged 300 villages and caused an estimated $137 million in damage to agriculture alone. However, only about 50 people were reported killed.

    Haiyan - Preparing Early via NY Daily News

    Contrast those storms with Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November 2013 and, until Patricia, was the most powerful hurricane recorded since accurate satellite measurements began in 1970. It left more than 7,300 people dead or missing and caused $2.8 billion in damage.

    After these October storms ended, disaster experts applauded both countries for their preparations that helped limit death and damage from the hurricanes.

    The United Nations 2014 Human Development Report listed two ways to limit vulnerability to disasters: prevent them from happening and build resilience among people and communities.

    Obviously, hurricanes aren’t preventable. However, both Mexico and the Philippines had plans in place to disseminate information and arrange for evacuation.

    After the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the government of the Philippines and aid agencies began focusing on disaster risk reduction, according to a story in The Guardian. They emphasized early warning dissemination, clear information about evacuation centers, pre-positioning aid in remote communities and teaching safer places to build homes and plant crops.

    Two days before Typhoon Koppu struck, Filipino president Benigno Aquino III broadcast a warning to the nation. According to the U.N., that broadcast, along with close coordination with meteorological, government and aid workers, helped people concentrate their efforts.

    More than 65,000 people were evacuated, with more than 12,000 staying in 136 shelters.

    Mexico made similar preparation. About 3,000 soldiers fanned out around southwestern Mexico in the days before Hurricane Patricia hit, and more soldiers and sailors came in after, according to an Associated Press story. USA Today reported at least 50,000 people stayed in more than 2,000 shelters.

    "'The 'warning-alert-evacuate-then hunker down' combination seems to have worked to limit the human losses from the wind component of the hazard," said Richard S. Olson, director at the International Hurricane Research Center in Miami, to the AP. "Local, state, and national authorities seemed to have gotten this one right."

    It helped too that the storm grew so big so quickly it didn’t have time to build up much of a storm surge and then quickly dissipated when it hit the mountains near the coast, Olsen said.

    Hurricane Evac Sign - Preparing EarlyIndividual families can have evacuation plans ready in case of emergency. They should include escape routes and emergency meeting places outside their home and neighborhood, according to ready.gov. They should account for individual needs and responsibilities, type of shelter and methods of transportation. Disability, age, and pets should also be considered.

    Families should also have communication plans with contact information for family members and friends, including an out of town contact. Each family member should carry a contact card, available to fill out at www.redcross.org.

    Resilience, the second way to limit vulnerability to disasters, includes developing skills to weather many types of shocks, according to the U.N. report.

    One way to develop resilience is to be financially prepared. That means having a savings and getting important information organized, according to Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    A short-term savings covers things like a down payment on a home. An emergency savings helps to prevent high-interest debt like credit cards or short-term loans when things come up like car repairs or doctor bills, she said.

    Equally important is to take savings out first via direct deposit. Then live off the rest. It’s an out of sight, out of mind thing.

    “I know if I keep extra money in my checking account, I will spend it until it’s gone,” she House.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit” is a great financial organization resource, House said.

    The 44-page booklet includes four sections that identify what information to collect, like social security cards, insurance policies, prescriptions and emergency contact information.

    “If there’s a natural disaster like a fire, do you know where your birth certificates are?” House asked.


    Hurricane_Blog_Banner - Preparing Early

  • You Don't Need to Worry About Hurricane Patricia Anymore...Right?

    Rubble - Salt Lake Tribune - Hurricane Patricia via Salt Lake Tribune

    Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the western hemisphere, quickly dissipated after it came ashore in western Mexico last Friday. Thanks to the rapid speed it traveled inland and where it landed – a mountainous, less-populous area – damage was far less than anticipated. Wind and water destroyed an estimated 3,500 buildings and crops like banana trees. But as of Sunday night, only six deaths had been reported.

    However, though Patricia is not even an organized storm, it’s not done yet. Its upper level winds and moisture combined with another storm system are still causing flooding and tornadoes thousands of miles away along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

    Hurricanes can produce major inland weather events. Three things to prepare for are flooding, wind, and power outages.

    Inland flooding is common with hurricanes. Ready.gov has some ideas about how to prepare a home for possible flooding.

    First, make physical preparation to the home.

    Clean the gutters and drains. Elevate utility systems like the furnace, water heater and electric panel if they’re in a place susceptible to flooding. Put “check valves” in sewer lines to keep floodwater from overflowing the pipes and causing a backup into the drains. Waterproof the basement. Have emergency building supplies on hand like plastic sheeting, plywood, tools, shovels and sandbags. If an area is susceptible to flooding, consider installing a sump pump (they’re becoming more common in new homes anyway) or elevating the building.

    Second, buy flood insurance. Regular insurance will usually cover precipitation from above and wind damage. It won’t cover water coming in from below.

    This year’s strong El Nino climate system prompted FEMA deputy associate administrator Roy Wright to suggest Californians invest in flood insurance, according to an Associated Press story. El Nino typically brings heavy winter rain to California. More than one-third of California flood insurance claims in the last 27 years came during four El Nino years.

    Make sure to buy it early. Flood insurance doesn’t take effect until 30 days after its purchase.

    Winds - BBC - Hurricane Patricia via BBC

    Preparing for wind is a multi-step process, according to the American Red Cross. The first step is to remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees to make them more wind resistant. This may be done throughout the year. Second, watch weather forecasts. If there is a high wind advisory, store or tie down outdoor furniture, decorations, trash cans and anything else that wind can turn into a projectile. Third, during the storm, close curtains or blinds. If windows do get broken, this will prevent shattered glass from scattering in the home.

    Wind storms can lead to power outages. When Hurricane Ike traveled north from the Gulf Coast in September 2008, its high winds caused more than 8 million people in the Midwest to lose power. It was one of the largest natural disaster-caused power outages in Midwest history.

    The Red Cross, ready.gov and the U.S. Department of Energy suggest ways to prepare for power outages.

    First, have a fully stocked emergency kit including food and water, a flashlight, batteries, cash in small bills and first aid supplies.

    Second, keep a cell phone and other battery-powered devices charged and have an alternative charging method.

    Third, keep the car’s gas tank full and know how to manually release an electric garage door opener. A vehicle can be a power source, but not in an enclosed space, unless carbon monoxide poisoning sounds like fun.

    Fourth, those who use a power-dependent or battery-operated medical device should have a backup power plan and tell their local utility so it can prioritize their home.

    Fifth, find out where to buy dry ice. Fifty pounds will keep a fully stocked fridge cold for two days. Without it, an unopened fridge will keep food cold for only about four hours. A half-full, unopened freezer will keep food cold for about 24 hours. Food in a packed, unopened freezer will stay cold for twice that long.

    Sixth, prepare for price increases. Hurricane Ike brought an “Ike Spike” in gas prices all the way into Canada.

    In July, former Hurricane Dolores caused record rainfall and flooding in southern California and Arizona. Yet the closest the center of the storm got to California was 300 miles west of Baja. At the time, it was just a post-tropical low-pressure center – too weak to even be considered a tropical storm. What was left of Dolores went on to cause flash flood watches in Nevada and farther inland. It just goes to show the value of preparing for a hurricane – even while living far away.


    Hurricane_Blog_Banner - Hurricane Patricia

  • Back to the Future: Advice to Your Past Self

    The Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs, Trudeau just got elected as Prime Minister of Canada…What year is it, anyway?

    Well, it’s still 2015, but today marks an important day in history. Today is the day that Doc and Marty McFly went into the future! Great Scott! How time flies!

    DeLorean - Back to the Future

    In the movie Back to the Future, the protagonists Doc and Marty head off into the past, future, and past again to make changes so bad things won’t happen in the future (or past, or present, or…whenever). Time travel can be hard to stay on top of some times. After all, it’s all a bunch of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey…stuff.

    Unfortunately, we still haven’t mastered the art of manipulating time like they did. But let’s say we could time travel. Marty was sent all over the place to help prevent bad things from happening. Well, now it’s your turn. If you could go back in time and let yourself in on a little secret about being prepared…what would you tell yourself?

    If you knew your past self was going to be hit hard by a natural disaster, or injury or job loss, what would you say?

    Think about that for a moment.

    Ice Storm (CNN) - Back to the FutureHow prepared were you for Hurricane Sandy, or that last tornado that ripped through town? When that massive snow storm hit last winter, were you sufficiently prepared with food, water, heat, and other gear to get you through those days when you couldn’t leave your house?

    I think, if we had the ability to time travel, we would let ourselves in on some useful secrets. For me, it might be to stock up on some extra water during my time in the Philippines. That would have made the tropical storm and subsequent damage much more manageable.

    Or, during the fall of 2012, I would warn myself about the flood risk my apartment was in. Perhaps I could have avoided a swimming pool for a living room if I had but prepared a bit better.

    jobless man - Back to the FuturePerhaps there are some of you who have lost jobs, or have been involved in an accident which hindered you from making ends meat. Would you have wished for the ability to go back in time and warn your better-off self of ways to prepare? Maybe you would have told yourself to set some of that money aside for food storage and other emergency supplies, so when that job loss or accident did come, you would be OK until you can recover.

    If you really think about it, there are probably at least a couple times you weren’t as prepared as you should have been. If only someone from the future had come back in time to warn you about the threat that lies ahead.

    Well, fellow citizen of Earth, you’re in luck! Fortunately for you, I come from the future, and I’m here to warn you that life isn’t all safe, easy, and without its problems. From here on out, there is disaster around every corner. The future is always in motion, however, so it’s hard for me to say exactly when it will come. But your decisions today will affect your outcome tomorrow, next month, or even years down the road.

    Don’t put off preparing until it’s too late. Take it from me, your voice of warning from the future. There will be problems, and they’re hardly ever what you expect them to be.


    What would you tell your past self to do to prepare for the future? Let us know in the comments!


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Back to the Future

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