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  • Severe Weather Has Its Own Timetable: Now Is the Time to Prepare

    Tornado Severe WeatherIowa’s statewide tornado drill, held on March 24, was supposed to be held the day before. It was postponed because of bad weather.

    Natural disasters don’t exactly conform to our timetables. Yet many have a seasonal ebb and flow. Although tornadoes occur year-round, most take place in the spring and early summer – hence, tornado season. Floods are common in March and April because of heavy rain and melting snow. Hurricane season peaks in August and September.

    This seasonal nature of wild weather could explain why 33 states and U.S. territories held severe weather awareness events in March. Another 21 events are planned for April.

    Events varied from state to state. Last week, for example, California sponsored Tsunami Preparedness Week, while Colorado nailed some extremes with Flood Safety and Wildfire Preparedness Week. Maryland’s Severe Storms Awareness Week highlighted a different hazard every day.

    The point of all this is, if you haven’t started preparing for a natural disaster, now’s a good time.

    One goal of Maryland’s awareness week was to highlight the difference between a watch and a warning, so people can act appropriately.

    A watch meansTornado Watch - Severe Weather that atmospheric conditions are right for severe weather to develop, but it hasn’t yet. Severe weather watches tend to last for longer time periods. A warning means severe weather is imminent or occurring, so take appropriate action now. The terminology is the same for many types of severe weather: tornadoes, flooding, severe thunderstorms, winter storms and hurricanes.

    Sometimes the National Weather Service issues weather advisories. These can refer to specific weather hazards within a storm, like a high wind advisory. They can also refer to severe weather that is imminent or occurring but won’t have quite as adverse an impact. A flood advisory, for example, is for flooding that shouldn’t really affect life or property.

    A month ago, eight tornadoes touched down in Virginia, killing five people.  Virginia’s governor referenced that disaster in a proclamation calling March 22 Tornado Preparedness Day.

    “All Virginians should know where to seek shelter during a tornado, whether at home, at work, at school, or elsewhere,” the proclamation said.

    Part of preparing for a disaster is knowing how to respond appropriately. For example, before a tornado, pick the safest place to shelter in a building. A basement is best, but if that’s not available, go to the center of a small, interior room on a building’s lowest floor. Either way, get under something and cover your head and neck. This advice doesn’t apply to mobile homes or buildings. From those, go to the nearest shelter.

    Flooded Street of Des Plains City - Severe Weather

    Evacuating if directed is also the best course of action during a flood. But be careful. Flooding is the deadliest weather hazard, mostly because people try to drive or walk across flooded roads and bridges. Be sure to have alternate routes to get to a shelter in case the main route is flooded.

    Once you’ve got a plan, practicing it is equally important.

    Employees of the Clear Lake, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce participated in this year’s delayed Iowa tornado drill. The Chamber’s Director of Tourism, Libbey Patton, said in a TV news story that chamber members had inclement weather plans for both office and events.

    “And we have had to use it a few years ago for [a weekly event] just to get everyone home and off the roads,” she said.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Severe Weather
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  • 7 Things You Should Do Following a Flood

    Flooded House following a floodFlooding can be a scary, dangerous disaster, and if not dealt with swiftly and properly after the fact, you could be in for even more lingering effects. It is recommended to bring your home back into good repair as soon as you can, so as to protect your health (such as from mold) as well as preventing further damage.

    But how do you do that? Great question. Let’s dive in (pun intended) and learn more about what you should do following a flood. Floodsmart.gov has many great suggestions, some of which we’ll be looking at in this article.

     

    Take Pictures

    While you will probably want to share your experience on social media, the pictures you take of the damages can - and should - be used by your insurance company when processing your claims. So before you start cleaning out and clearing up, make sure you photograph the mess your home is in, or else risk losing out on some coverage.

     

    Stay Healthy

    Floodsmart.gov recommends boiling all water for drinking and cooking until local authorities deem your water supply is safe. Because flood water can bring in a host of contaminates (including sewage, muck, and other things you don’t want in your system), you’ll want to make sure you have a way to treat your water before drinking it. Otherwise, be prepared to get a lot of bottled water from the store.

    Since flood water can be super nasty, it’s best to wear rubber boots to keep the water away from your skin. Likewise, wear gloves and other protective clothing while working to clear your house of leftover water and debris.

     

    Keep Power Off

    If you’re wading around in your flooded home, the last thing you want is to be zapped by a live current. Turn your power off and you’ll be just fine.

     

    Remove Wet Contents Immediately

    Mold grows quicklyFlooded Stuff following a flood, so make sure you get rid of all your wet belongings to avoid as much as possible. Washing walls and floor will also help keep mold out. Unfortunately, in order to clean floors, you might have to tear it out and replace it. But that’s better than leaving a flooded floor inside and having mold grow underneath it, which will cause health problems later on.

     

    File an Insurance Claim

    This goes without saying, but you need to have a flood insurance policy before you can actually file a claim. And remember, that policy needs to be purchased at least 30 days before a flood, or else the claim is void.

     

    Remove Water

    Wet Vac following a floodUnless you’re happy with your new built-in swimming pool, it’s time to remove the water from your home. Buckets are one way to bail out your home, but a more effective way is to use a sump pump. You can find these at most home supply stores. A wet vac is also necessary to dry up that water, which will also help reduce mold growth.

     

    Avoid Flooded Water

    WINDSOR, UK - 11 FEBRUARY following a flood

    Lastly, avoid flood water in streets, yards, or anywhere else. Dangerous debris can harm you. If you get cut while standing in that water the dirty, deadly contaminants and organisms can creep in to your wound and infect it, compromising your health. Flood waters may also continue to have a strong current, and even shallow water can sweep you off your feet. So be very careful around flood waters.

     

     

    Floods are the most common disaster in the United States and can be very dangerous and devastating. Make sure you know what to do following a flood before it happens, so when it does come you can go right to work.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - following a flood

     

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  • Thanks for the Rain, Pineapple Express! (Got any more?)

    Finally. After an unexpectedly warm, dry February, the Pineapple Express has dumped enough rain and snow on northern California to bring reservoirs there up to average levels – the first time they’ve been that high since the drought began.

    Drought Monitor Released Thursday March 17, 2016 - Pineapple Express Drought Monitor - Released Thursday March 17, 2016

    This doesn’t mean the end of the state’s drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest report shows 55 percent of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought. Groundwater is a major concern too. The state’s underground aquifers, which have been building their supply for hundreds or thousands of years, are being depleted far faster than they can be refurbished. Some of them have caved in and will never recover.

    The good news is the drought has been a wake-up call for the need to better manage water use.

    Here’s how some people are trying to save water.

    In California’s Central Valley, where a huge percentage of the food the U.S. eats is grown, declining aquifers have become a health hazard. Shallow municipal wells have gone dry as large agricultural companies draw down groundwater from deeper wells. This has left residents without water, or with polluted water.

    One problem is, when a lot of rain falls, the area doesn’t have enough surface storage, like reservoirs, to keep it, according to a story in the Christian Science Monitor. According to the story, George Goshgarian, an almond farmer in the San Joaquin Valley, is trying something new: flooding his almond orchards during the winter rainy season when his trees are dormant and don’t need the water.

    The idea is, the water will soak into the ground and hopefully some will trickle into the aquifer below. If he’s careful, the flooding shouldn’t hurt the trees because they are dormant. Then, during the drier growing season, the ground will have more moisture. And the aquifer below will have a bit more water.

    According to a study for the California Water Foundation that was cited in the story, groundwater in the southern San Joaquin is being depleted at a rate of 250,000 acre-feet per year on average. Using the rainy season’s runoff could reduce that amount between a third and a half, the study estimated.

    Homeowners and municipalities are also trying to figure out how to use rainwater runoff. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power last August presented a plan to capture more rainwater for the city.

    According to Andy Lipkis, president of Tree People, which advocates for sustainable urban water use, an inch of rain falling on Los Angeles represents 7.6 billion gallons of water. Half that runs off into the ocean, he said in a story in the Christian Science Monitor.

    The utility’s master plan suggests projects to capture water that range in size from major basins to individuals’ yards.

    Drip Irrigation - Pineapple ExpressThe yard of Carrie Wassenaar of North Hollywood, Calif., is a case study in how water catching works. As described in the Christian Science Monitor, her yard has drought-tolerant plants watered by a drip-irrigation system that uses rainwater. A depression in the yard allows water to pool and seep down to the aquifer below. The water comes from an above-ground cistern that collects rainfall from her roof.

    “You want to feel like you're at least trying to help with the solution instead of just contributing to the problem,” she said in the story.

    Ready.gov says the best way to prepare for a drought is to use less water beforehand. Here are some tips from ready.gov for saving water inside the home.

    Replace washers in dripping faucets and repair pipe leaks.

    “One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year,” ready.gov said.

    Insulate water pipes. This will reduce heat loss, which means it’ll take less time to heat water from the tap.

    Install low-flow appliances, toilets, and shower heads. Some water districts will offer rebates to offset the cost.

    Instead of rinsing dishes and using the disposal, scrape dishes into the trash or compost.

    Lawns - Pineapple ExpressOutside, reduce the lawn and put in plants adapted to your climate. According to a study, lawns cover an estimated 50,000 square miles of the country. That makes lawns the biggest crop in America. And you can’t even eat them.

    Don’t water too much. Lawns only need about a half inch of water per week and less in the autumn and winter. If water’s running down the gutter, you’re using too much.

    Consider using grey water for outdoor watering. For information about installing a rain catching system, check out the web site for the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association.

    Be aware of regulations when considering water-saving tools. California offered homeowners tax-free rebates of up to $2,000 to help homeowners pay for water-efficient yards. As of February, the state had spent $22 million in rebates. Unfortunately, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is taxing those rebates as income.

     

    Drought Preparedness - Pineapple Express

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