Search results for: 'drought'

  • Rattlesnakes at Your Door?

    Just in case you thought we’d exhausted the topic of bizarrely unpleasant side effects of the drought plaguing the Western US, here’s one more to chuck on the pile: rattlesnakes. According to CBS News, scarcity of ground water is driving rodents closer to homes and neighborhoods to quench their thirst. And where the vermin go, the snakes follow, with the result that “Rattlesnakes are Slithering Closer to Homes in Northern California.”

    The snake removal specialist quoted in the article reports a record year for his business, netting over 70 snakes in a single week. Incidentally, he keeps them alive in a room and releases them back into the wild—which, if you live in Sacramento, may not be the most comforting part of the article.

    I mean, not to creep anybody out, but RATTLESNAKES!

    I’m knocking on all kinds of wood as I tell you that I happen to live in a part of the country where rattlesnakes aren’t found, but I did have a glancing encounter with one as a kid at camp. As I remember it, one of my grown-up relatives took a shovel to the creature and lopped off its head—a technique frowned upon by the reliable sources below, I’m sure.

    So, what does one do if one comes across one of these nasty pieces of work, whether on the trail or in your garage? First of all, do your homework!

    • The US Forest Service offers a Snake Safety handout, with precautions, first aid, and some really enlightening snake facts. My favorite is the DOs and DON’Ts section—turns out Hollywood’s old cut-and-suck method is a no-no.
    • Washington State’s Trail Association has a page dedicated specifically to “How to Hike in Rattlesnake Country.” Tips include how to identify signs that a rattler is near, how to safely photograph snakes, and what special considerations to make when hiking with dogs.

     

    With all the other drama of this particular crisis, I really hope an infestation isn’t part of your experience this year. But if it is, learn what you need to do to keep your household safe. And for more info on other biters, stingers, and suckers, see our “First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings.”

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • We’ve been posting quite a bit this year about water problems across the country, and most of the issues have been drought related. Need another reason to be extra thrifty with your water? Visit Toledo.

    According to NOAA, Lake Erie is in for its fourth consecutive year of higher-than-average incidence of toxic algal blooms. Blue-green algae may sound picturesque, but the slimy carpeting floating at the surface of infected lakes and seas can kill marine life—and wreak havoc on human bodies, as well. And algae doesn’t just mean a bummer day at the beach; Fox News points out that Lake Erie provides drinking water for much of that region, both in the US and Canada.

    These images from National Geographic show how really, ahem, eerie this phenomenon is around the world.

    Don't Drink the Water: Lake Erie's Toxic Sludge

    Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

    The state governments of Wisconsin and Florida have fact sheets available to clear up some of the misinformation about blue-green algae and help people avoid harm. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s page emphasizes the importance of keeping pets from playing in or consuming “icky-looking and smelly” (their words) water. And Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources strikes at one of the roots of the problem, cautioning residents against over-fertilization, since runoff feeds algae and leads to unnaturally aggressive growth.

    Besides vacationing somewhere other than the southwest shores of the Great Lakes, there are one or two things we can do to minimize our exposure to harmful algae. Check out the facts and tips in these water storage posts.

    Stay safe on the beach this summer, friends, and keep your drinking water clean and slime-free!

     

    --Stacey

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: water

  •  California's Liquid Gold: Drought Time Water Prices

    Not to beat a parched horse, but here’s an angle on the drought in the western US that we hadn’t considered. Turns out the shortage of water in California is making millionaires out of individuals and organizations with extra stores or claims to private sources.

    According to the AP, in an article titled, “In Dry California, Water Fetching Record Prices,” the price of water has increased by ten times in the last five years, reaching past $2000 per acre-foot. The resource is sold at auctions, with large farms and cities among the bidders. One private water storage district in Bakersfield wrangled in $13.5 million in a single transaction!

    One of the most interesting points in the article is the description of water banks—essentially massive, underground water storage facilities where surplus is banked in years of plenty. Kind of makes my rain barrel look a little paltry!

    On the other hand, if each of us took a page from California’s most prudent large-scale water storage facilities, maybe we’d be less dependent on the kinds of exorbitant transactions that grow out of desperate demand.

    For example, smart home water storage might help maintain a garden during a drought, easing the pain of increased produce costs at the grocery store—the inevitable trickle-down as farms pay through the nose to irrigate commercial crops. (Read about both of these ideas in our articles, “Your Drought Year Garden,” and “How Does the California Drought Affect Your Grocery List?”)

    In any case, it’s all a great reminder of the importance of preparation, storage, and self-sufficiency in times of disaster or scarcity.

     

    What has your experience been with droughts and the cost of food, water, or other resources?

     

    -Stacey

    For more tips about water storage check out:

    45 Ways to Conserve Water

    Water Storage Overview

    Water Storage Options

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: drought, California Drought

  • Preparedness in the News: 5 Things to know this week

    An overhead shot of the California wildfire from July 18th

     

    Here are five need-to-know news stories in the world of emergency preparedness for the week of July 14th-18th :

    1. Typhoon Rammasun Impacts the Phillippines

    Typhoon Rammasun pummeled the shores of Manila on Tuesday, July 15th. After experiencing the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan last year, hundreds of thousands of residents fled to higher ground and worked to shore up their weakened homes in anticipation of more severe storms. Read the full story from Foxnews.com.

    2. California Considers Setting Mandatory Water Curbs

    As a result of the three-year drought impacting California and other states in the West, California lawmakers are considering creating mandatory state-wide water restrictions for the first time during the drought. You’ll be surprised by how much the proposed out-of-pocket fine is for using your sprinkler in California...Check out the full story at foxnews.com.

    3. Chemical Leak Near Thailand’s Eastern Seaport Sickens Nearly 100

    On Thursday, July 17, at least 94 people were exposed to a chemical leak from a ship docked in Bangkok, Thailand. Residents were asked to evacuate the area and to seek medical attention.  Read more about this chemical leak from CBS News. But this is not the first time Thailand has been in the news this summer, read  about the recent political unrest and disaster scenarios people are preparing for in Thailand in our article, “Thailand Natural, and not so Natural Disasters.”

    4. Washington State Wildfires is so Massive it Creates Mushroom-Like Cloud

    Low humidity and 100 degree temperatures have created the perfect conditions for wildfires and large, billowing smoke clouds this week in Washington State. By July 18th, at least 100 homes had been burned. Emergency crews closed sections of U.S. 2 and other main roads across the state. Residents in Leavenworth, WA were asked to evacuate as ash rained from the sky. Read more from the New York Daily News and NBC News.

    5. Scientists identify Mt. Rainer’s volcanic center in detailed photographs

    According to the Science World Report, “Scientists are getting a closer look at Mount Rainier's volcanic plumbing. By measuring how fast Earth conducts electricity and seismic waves, researchers have made a detailed picture of what happens deep beneath the surface of the mountain.” Learning more about this volcano's internal plumbing helps us better predict and prepare for future eruptions. Check out the rest of the story at scienceworldreport.com.

     

    --Angela 

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Drought Update: Lake Powell's Bleakest Year Yet

    We’ve talked a lot this year about the destructive drought choking the western US. And while California gets most of the attention (check out UNL’s drought monitor and their frighteningly visual perspective on California’s situation), other states are suffering, as well. In fact, the drop in a single reservoir is affecting residents of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah—and California! This headline from the Daily Mail sums up the dangerous situation:

    “Satellite images reveal mud-choked Lake Powell is LESS than half full and has hit a record low as the Western drought continues to strain major reservoirs”

    The article, which features a chilling image gallery of the barely recognizable vacation spot, reports that Lake Powell currently sits at 42% of its capacity, with experts estimating that this year’s snowmelt will only bring it up to about 51%. And it’s not just bad news for boaters. The man-made reservoir serves as a source of drinking water for 20 million people living across the west, and the Glen Canyon dam that regulates the reservoir provides hydroelectric power to the area.

    While forecasters predict a cool, wet “El Niño” year for 2014, Eric Holthaus over at Slate.com explains why that won’t be enough to recover from this decade-plus long dry spell in his article, “What Does El Niño Mean For Me?”. With no end in sight, then, how can we…er…weather this storm?

    For ideas on ways to prepare against the effects of severe drought, check out these helpful posts:

    And for a recap of this year’s drought and its unexpected effects, read here:

     

    What are you doing differently this year because of the drought?

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • What to Expect (or not) from El Nino

    Here’s a cheerful headline to brighten your week: “El Niño is Going to Make Your 2014 Miserable.” Thank you, salon.com, for the good news.

    Actually, 2014 is half over already, and it’s been a pretty fair six months for me, so I’m not getting too hand-wringy quite, yet. I am, however, interested to see what kinds of wacky weather the warm Pacific currents have in store.

    The trick about El Niño, as we were informed by the Weather Channel recently (see their article, “Hurricane Season 2014: 5 Things You Need to Know”), is that its effects are famously unpredictable. Even salon.com’s efforts to sound dire are compromised, as experts warn us that the year could be unusually wet or unusually dry…or, um, neither.

    “Regions across the U.S. that are normally wet can dry out during El Niño conditions, while normally dry regions can flood.” Worldwide expectations related to El Niño are not always accurate, however. “There is an expectation of drought, but not in every single El Niño event do we actually have drought,” Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, said.

    Well, that certainly clears things up.

    Sounds to me like a good time to be prepared for any eventuality. So here are some articles to help get you set for whatever El Niño has in store for your area.

    Keep an eye on the skies, and let us know how El Niño is affecting you this year!

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: storm, Weather, el Nino

  • California's Fire Season

    During the few years I spent down in Orange County, CA, I didn’t so much miss the seasons, but I just had to get used to a different set of seasons. Fog season. High surf season. Ugg boots season. And fire season.

    If you’ve never lived through a summer-to-fall in Southern California, it’s hard to describe the brittle dryness of the air; the hot, dusty Santa Ana winds; the sinister orange tint of the sky; or the sharp burn in your throat as ash settles like cottonwood on cars and lawns. Wildfire season is unpleasant at best, and downright scary for those who live in the driest swaths. And California’s worst dry spell in recorded history is making that danger a reality for more and more residents.

    In mid-June, this report surfaced: “California Wildfire Threatens 1,000 More Homes Near Sequoia National Park.” While no injuries or fatalities were logged in relation to this fire, it swallowed three homes and was very hard to contain. Turns out the combination of heat, wind, and acres of brush sucked dry as tinder is exactly what a fire like this needed to grow to disastrous proportions.

    We’ve been watching California’s fires particularly closely this year. For a re-cap, check out our previous posts, “California Wildfires Spread Due to Drought Conditions,” and “Wildfires Plague Southern California.” And whether or not you live within blaze territory, it’s smart to know your wildfire safety. Here are some of our favorite resources:

    • FEMA’s US Fire Administration page has all sorts of free, downloadable materials on wildfire awareness and preparation.
    • We really like Ready.gov’s tip list for what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.
    • The Wildfire Preparedness page from the American Red Cross is organized similarly, and includes guidelines on rebuilding after fire damage.
    • Readyforwildfire.org has fantastic interactive information, video tutorials, links to action plan and emergency kit checklists, and a live Twitter feed from Cal Fire.
    • Everybody’s favorite furry forest ranger, Smokey the Bear, has a whole tab full of games and teaching tools for children and families at SmokeyBear.com/kids.

     

    What are you doing during the dry season to prepare?

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Fire Safety, wildfire, fire season

  • Tornadoes In Gold Country

    California can’t seem to catch a break this year! From droughts to floods, the Golden State and Mother Nature are going through an especially rocky patch… but tornadoes?!

    Believe it or not, the last days of March saw a handful of tornadoes touch down in Northern California, damaging as many as 20 homes, according to an AP report. Thankfully, no injuries or displacements were reported, but residents are learning hard lessons about expecting the unexpected.

    According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, and their super-cool maps, tornadoes are relatively uncommon along the West Coast. "The tornadoes which do occur,” explains a lead meteorologist from the Weather Channel in the report above, “are created by systems coming off the Pacific and are generally much weaker than those experienced by the Plains.”

    While California’s twisters may not be the same caliber as those that plagued the Midwest last year, residents whose roofs and fences will have to be replaced—or those who watched barbeque grills and other debris rain down on their property!—are still feeling the shake-up of disaster narrowly avoided.

    At the beginning of March, we re-posted an article from the archives--“How to Prepare for a Tornado”--which includes a fantastic video tutorial series from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for preparedness “before,” “during,” and “after” tornado. The article also includes links to other helpful resources, like our blog post “Tornado Preparedness” and FEMA’s “Developing an Emergency Response Plan for Tornadoes.”

    The lesson we keep learning over and over again is there’s no perfectly safe set of circumstances—no region and no season is free from the threat of natural disasters. However we may classify our risk, we’re all better off if we’re prepared.

     

    --Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • By now, most of you have probably seen this historic image of the California snowpack. In January, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released photos showing the dramatic effect the California drought has had on the state’s landscape and snowpack.

    As the picture below shows, much of the greenery, snowpack depth, and precipitation in California’s Sierra region has dramatically decreased within just a year. According to Southern California’s NBC affiliate station, the runoff from the California mountain range is a key source of water for California communities and growers. It accounts for about one-third of the state’s water.

     California Snowpack

    In late March, the Sierra Nevada region received some much needed snowfall, but Mark Cowin, Department of Water Resources director, believed even then that the drought was far from over. Fast forward to early April—surveyors skied into the Sierra Nevada to measure the snowpack level. Surveyors measure the amount of water that melts from the snowpack into the streams and reservoirs below. In April, the snowpack was about 32 percent of the average water content.

    The most recent measurement of the snowpack, taken on May 1st, reveals that the situation is not getting any better. After taking the final measurement of the snowpack for the wet season, California’s Department of Water Resources revealed that the snowpack is now at 18 percent of its average water content level. SoCal’s NBC news station states, “Water managers have said the northern Sierra snowpack that feeds California's major reservoirs is 9 percent of average, and those reservoirs are only half full.”

    Since the snowpack is a major source of water in the state, its depletion is a serious issue for the entire state, especially with the hot and dry summer months approaching.

    As Mark Cowin stated, “This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.” You can take simple steps now to practice water conservation. Learn how to conserve water by taking our “Gallon Challenge—EE Style” You’ll be surprised by how much water you use in a typical day, especially when you only have one gallon for your cooking, drinking, and sanitation needs. Use this challenge to determine how much water to have in your family’s home water storage.

     

    If you would like to know what to do to begin conserving water, check out this article to get started: 45 Ways to Conserve Water.

    What tips do you have for conserving water?

    --Angela

    Photo Courtesy of National Journal

     

    Sources

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/the-california-drought-as-seen-from-space-20140204

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Sierra-Nevada-Snowpack-California-Drought-257500871.html

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  • This post is the third installment of a three-part series highlighting the 2014 California Drought. Check out Part Two of the Series: The Effects of California's Driest Year

    The California drought rages on, leaving lands dry and barren. Farm/ranch owners and laborers throughout the west are directly impacted by the drought. The owners have to slaughter or sell off livestock for lack of feed and refrain from planting their usual crops, which means cutting their own income and providing less work for laborers and truckers.

    Shortages naturally drive prices up at the market, and you’ve probably already seen higher costs on meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products as farmers produce less. (It takes from two to twelve months for the full effects of a drought to become obvious at the marketplace.) California’s produce industry is normally a $44.7 billion annual business, but as the drought continues, that number will shrink dramatically.

     

    California Water Agriculture

    Drought in California's Central Valley

    On May 19th, 2014, the results of a study conducted by the University of California’s Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences reported that the California drought could cause as many as 14,500 full-time and seasonal jobs to be lost. In addition to job loss, the drought will cost California’s Central Valley (one of the most affluent farming communities in the world) to lose $1.7 billion dollars.

    Since many farmers in the Central Valley rely on irrigation, rather than rain to grow their crops, they are purchasing supplies from federal and state projects to pump water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta or are pumping water from wells—but these are costly ventures.

    California’s farm industry makes up $1.9 trillion of the state’s gross domestic product for the year, and as such, the governor is helping the farmers by easing some of the state’s water rights regulations. But as we know, the decrease in farming and produce production from the California farm industry does not just impact California alone.

    CBS News suggests that “the direction of national food prices [are less than certain] as the drought grinds on. California agriculture produces close to half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in America…”

    Prices Climb as the Drought Rages on

    As prices increase, some shoppers will look for alternative sources or choices, while others will simply do without their usual fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Customers may simply refuse to buy overpriced produce, allowing it to get old on the shelves rather than pay what is asked.

    California exports a tremendous volume of produce and meat overseas—and it remains to be seen how foreign customers will react to price increases. Will vendors and restaurant owners still order from California, or turn to other temperate climate sources such as Spain, Italy, and Israel? And once their status in the industry is lost, will California be able to regain it when the rain returns? Since western droughts can last for decades, a lot of things seem up in the air.

    According to Scientific American, California received little to no rain during the region’s wet season from December to March. And by the beginning of April, nearly 70 percent of the state was in extreme to exceptional drought. As of May, the entire state is now experiencing “severe” drought.

     

    In the meantime, it might be a very good idea to purchase some long-lasting, freeze-dried fruits, veggies, and meats before those items become scarce and prices skyrocket. Now is also the time to start conserving water wherever you can—every little bit will help. Try the “Gallon Challenge—EEStyle” to see if you and your family can each survive on a gallon of water for one day!

    -Sharon, Kim, and Angela

    Sources:

    www.blogs.usda.gov/2012/08/10/us-drought-and-your-food-costs

    www.theundergroundsite.com/california-drought-could-impact-world-food-prices

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/30/california-drought-effects-500-years_n_4647529.html

    www.trippapparel.com/2014/18697

    www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Feature/LakeMead

    www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/02/14/obama-california-drought-aid-vilsack/5479121

    www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/politics/obama-to-announce-aid-for-drought-racked-california.html?r=0

    www.westernfarmpress.com/blog/obama-administration-misses-boat-drought-assistance

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-drought-taking-a-toll-on-jobs-economy/

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/20/us-usa-california-drought-jobs-idUSBREA4J01M20140520

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/100-percent-of-california-now-in-highest-stages-of-drought/

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

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