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  • China Floods Displace Millions

    China Floods - Via BBC China floods - via BBC

    China knows very well about extreme weather. Monsoons, typhoons, earthquakes, floods, drought…you name it. Even though extreme weather and natural disasters are something they are used to, every new disaster still comes as a shock.

    On July 20, 2016, China’s Hebei and Henan provinces were pounded by a monsoon which caused the Qili River to flood. There was no advanced warning, and not enough time to act. The floods killed over 150 people and displaced millions.

    But this isn’t the first time such chilling devastation has affected China due to flood. In fact, since the beginning of this year at least 1,074 people have lost their lives in China due to floods, winds, hail, and many geological happenings.

    China knows all about natural disasters. Throughout the years, they have seen countless floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. But if there’s one thing we learned from this most recent flood, it’s that early warning is key.

    Public officials failed to give enough warning to the people, which, had it been otherwise, could have saved lives. While it is a tragic event – one the locals had a hard time predicting – we can learn from it. When it comes to emergency preparedness, being informed and staying aware of what’s going on around you can save your life.

    Man Clearing Leaves From Guttering Of House China floods

    For example, learn whether you live in an area susceptible to flooding. Before the rain even comes, find ways to keep your home protected. Make sure gutters and storm drains are not blocked. Invest in sand bags if you know flooding has been an issue in the past, or think it could be in the future.

    Get flood insurance. Flood insurance doesn’t become active until 30 days after you buy it, so if you see rain on the forecast, chances are it’s already too late. Don’t wait until the last minute if you know you’re in a flood-prone area. Act now.

    Just like the folks in China, we can’t always rely on others to inform us of impending dangers. Sure, we’ve had reliable warnings and watches for quite some time so tuning in to your local weather alert station is always a great idea. But you know your area better than anyone, and that means you know the dangers that come with it, so even if the weather station reports “no flood watch,” you know your area might be an exception, so plan accordingly.

     

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  • Hurricane Katrina: The Costliest Hurricane in United States History

    Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA - costliest hurricane Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA

    Last year was the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in United States history. Since then, the major hurricane drought has continued, with 11 years and no major hurricanes, defined as Category 3, 4 and 5. In fact, in the last seven years only four hurricanes have hit the U.S., a streak not seen since the nation began keeping hurricane statistics in 1851.

    Still, the last 11 years have brought many lessons about hurricanes.

    First, the strength of a hurricane isn’t the best predictor of its destructiveness. Flooding and storm surge cause more death and damage than wind.

    Hurricane Katrina, was only a Category 3, on a scale of 1 to 5, when it made landfall in 2005. Sandy, the second-most expensive, was only a Category 1 when it came ashore in New Jersey.

    Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico in 2015, was the second-strongest hurricane in recorded history. Yet its storm surge was small, and it landed in a rural area, so damage was limited.

    Second, communication and transportation are key before, during and after a hurricane. After Hurricane Katrina, businesses had trouble communicating with employees and customers, according to a booklet by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina: Preparing Your Institution for a Catastrophic Event.

    Both land lines and cell towers were damaged. Mail was disrupted for a long time thereafter, so bill payments couldn’t get through and services got canceled as a result. Roads were washed out and infrastructure damaged so people couldn’t get to jobs or even evacuation centers. Once they were in evacuation centers, flooding and diverted transportation kept them from leaving.

    Superdome - via Tony's Huddle - costliest hurricane Inside the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina - via Tony's Huddle

    Take the Superdome, which became a symbol of the horror a hurricane can inflict. When the Superdome general manager agreed to open the building as an emergency shelter, it was originally intended to hold fewer than 1,000 patients with special medical needs for about two days, according to a story in For the Win, a subsidiary of USA Today.

    It eventually held 30,000 people for almost a week. Debris, water, and destroyed transportation corridors kept food, medical supplies, and fuel from getting to New Orleans. Phone service, including 911, was almost nonexistent.

    “When roads are flooded, washed out, blocked by trees and power lines, etc., it takes a while to get them back in order. That means you need to be prepared to get by for at least a few days and, much better, at least a couple of weeks on your own,” wrote Glenn Reynolds, an editorial contributor to USA Today, in a story about lessons from Katrina.

    On the other hand, the owner of Liedenhelmer Banking Company in New Orleans closed the company’s plant and encouraged his employees to prepare their homes and evacuate, according to a an article from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The company also kept phone numbers and evacuation contact information for key employees. After the hurricane, all his employees were safe, though many suffered losses. He later arranged for a carpool service to take employees in shelters to and from work.

    “What some of our folks faced and what they are still facing in their personal lives is heart-breaking. It is important to listen to the needs of employees,” he told FEMA.

    Third, financial systems break down during a hurricane. After Katrina, power outages and overwhelmed backup servers left banks without computer access, including access to customers’ financial information, according to Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina. In addition, some bank branches and ATMs were under water for weeks and others were severely damaged.

    Keep cash in small bills in a short-term emergency kit, suggested Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah

    Emergency managers fear the lack of recent hurricanes is making people complacent. Katrina and other recent hurricanes taught that preparing for hurricanes beforehand can reduce problems after.

    "The farther we get from the last hurricane, the closer we get to the next one," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen told USA Today.

     

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  • Hot Heat Fuels Dozens of Fires

    It’s simple. In the western United States, heat begets fire. As of June 26, 27 large fires are burning in 10 states. The worst situation is in California, where years of drought and tree death combined with temperatures above 100 degrees have contributed to six large fires. Here’s a look at some of the fires and some things we can learn from them.

     

    Active Fire Map June 27, 2016 - via someone

     

     Erskine (Calif.)

    “It was a firestorm,” one evacuee from the fire in South Lake, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times in an elementary school/evacuation center. He didn’t know if his house was still standing.

    The fire blasted into existence the afternoon of June 23. Fed by a 40 mph wind, temperatures above 90 degrees and bone-dry grass, it traveled 11 miles in 13 hours.

    It burned through power and phone lines, knocking out both landline and cell phone service. Sheriff deputies, going door-to-door to warn residents, had to run from the fire. A couple died trying to escape. Three firefighters were injured.

    So far, more than 225 buildings and almost 60 square miles have burned. Another 2,500 homes are still threatened and six communities evacuated. The fire is only 10 percent contained, and evacuees may not return home because of fears wind shifts could send the fire in different directions.

    When it comes to fire, be prepared to run for it. Have go-bags packed and in an accessible place.

    An evacuee, Magan Weid, told the Los Angeles Times, “Everything was flying into your eyes. I didn’t have time to get glasses. I literally just grabbed a bag with miscellaneous crap. I didn’t have time to get anything together.”

    Include prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions. One evacuee worried because she and her husband left without his heart medication.

    “I don’t know where to go,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

    Have copies of vital records. In her haste, one woman left behind her Social Security card and birth certificate. All she had were her pajamas and contents of her car.

    Keep a full tank of gas. One man said he and his neighbors created a mini traffic jam in their haste to leave. Another jumped into his car only to discover its tank was low. Fortunately, he made it out.

     

    Reservoir/Fish (Calif.)

    Dual fires northeast of Los Angeles have burned about 5,000 acres since June 20. 858 homes were evacuated. On June 22, residents of 534 were allowed to go home.

    When you’re preparing to evacuate, be prepared for a long stay.  Have something to do in your go bag. Have a way to recharge a phone. Make sure you’ve got a place for pets. Many shelters won’t allow pets unless they’re service animals.

     

    Dog Head (N.M.)

    Fire via AP Home burning - photo via AP

    The Dog Head fire in central New Mexico burned almost 18,000 acres and destroyed 12 homes and 44 other structures. It is 90 percent contained.

    It could have been worse if thinning out dead trees had not taken place, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who toured the area June 24. In California, according to a report released June 22, 66 million trees have died in the last five years, and only 77,000 have been cut down.

    If you live in wildfire country, clear an area about 30 feet around your home of anything that might burn, like wood piles, dried leaves, and brush. Keep the roof and gutters clean.

     

    Saddle (Utah)

    Lightning on June 13 caused the Saddle fire in southern Utah. A voluntary evacuation is still in place for the nearby town of Pine Valley. The fire spread in part because three times in a week, drones grounded firefighting aircraft.

    Don’t be stupid. This time of year, as temperatures climb and vegetation dies, the western U.S. is a tinderbox. Fire restrictions are in place in southern Utah and Arizona. Obey them. Don’t do anything that might ignite dry vegetation. When there is a fire, be aware of emergency vehicles.

     

    Cedar (Ariz.)

    Firefighters are beginning to consider the aftermath of the Cedar fire, which has been burning since June 15. The fire, which burned 46,000 acres, was 60 percent contained Sunday.

    It burned during a period of horrendous temperatures. Six people died from heat. Temperatures exceeded 120 degrees in parts of Arizona.

    Ready.gov has several suggestions for keeping safe during extreme heat.

    Excessive heat warnings and heat alerts are still in effect in many places in the west. Be smart and be safe, especially during the holiday weekend ahead.

     

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