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  • When Hurricanes Go Inland

    Map Inland Hurricanes

    Take a look at this map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It shows how often U.S. counties have experienced a hurricane or tropical storm. Colored areas represent hurricane impacts. Notice how far inland the map goes: counties in Utah and Nebraska have experienced the remnants of tropical storms and hurricanes.

    Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was a great example of the broad reach of a hurricane. It affected 24 states – half the continental U.S. It was the second-most devastating hurricane in U.S. history, killing 157 people and causing $71.4 billion in damage.

    Even if you live inland, it’s useful to find out if you might be susceptible to a hurricane’s reach.

    Your risk from hurricanes is based on where you live, the structure of your home, and your personal circumstances,” said FEMA’s How to Prepare for a Hurricane.

    Flooding is the greatest problem when hurricanes head inland.

    To prepare, check your flood risk with FEMA’s flood mapping tool. Buy flood insurance in addition to regular insurance. Regular insurance will usually cover water damage from precipitation and wind. It won’t usually cover flooding. Buy it early. Flood insurance doesn’t take effect until 30 days after its purchase.

    If you live in an area that can be flooded, have an evacuation plan with a place to go and alternate routes to get there. Make sure animals are provided for. Many shelters won’t take pets. FEMA recommends you plan to evacuate the “5 P’s”: People (and pets), Prescriptions, Papers, Personal items and Priceless items.

    Hurricanes can create snowstorms. Hurricane Sandy combined with polar air to dump at least a foot of snow in more than half of West Virginia’s counties. The heavy snow collapsed buildings and toppled trees.

    tropical storm - Inland Hurricanes

    Hurricanes can create thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes thousands of miles from landfall. Hurricane Patricia, the largest tropical cyclone in the western hemisphere, hit western Mexico in October 2015. Although it dissipated quickly, storm remnants crossed Mexico and whacked Texas. Houston got 9.4 inches of rain in 24 hours, and a tornado touched down near the city.

    Hurricanes can bring wind far inland. Wind gusts from Hurricane Sandy measured 60-70 miles per hour around the Great Lakes. Flying debris hit killed a Toronto, Canada woman.

    It’s possible to prepare a home for all these weather events. Clean gutters and drains and waterproof a basement. Prepare for wind by removing diseased and damaged tree limbs.

    When hurricane remnants are in the forecast, store or tie down outdoor furniture, decorations, trash cans and anything else that wind can turn into a projectile. Also, close curtains or blinds. If windows do get broken, this will prevent shattered glass from scattering in the home.

    Finally, be prepared for power outages. Hurricane Sandy left more than 9 million utility customers without power. Two weeks later, more than 6 million in 15 states and the District of Columbia were still without electricity.

    “Depending on the strength of the hurricane and its impact on your community, you could be in your home with no power or other basic services for several weeks,” FEMA wrote.

    Ready.gov suggests ways to prepare for power outages.

    Have a fully stocked emergency kit including food and water, a flashlight, batteries, cash in small bills and first aid supplies. Keep a cell phone and other battery-powered devices charged and have an alternative charging method. 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.

    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.

    Before a major storm, 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.

    Finally, prepare for price increases. Hurricane Ike, the third-most costly storm in U.S. history, brought an “Ike Spike” in gas prices all the way into Canada.

    In July 2015, 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 too weak to even be considered a tropical storm. What was left of Dolores caused flash flood watches in Nevada and farther inland.

    It just goes to show that coastal areas aren’t the only places that should prepare for hurricanes.


    Hurricane_prep_03 - Inland Hurricanes

  • La Niña Could Brew Up a Very Active Hurricane Season

    El Niño did a lot of damage this year. It stormed across California, broke heat records in Asia and killed crops, and may have even helped spread Zika virus.

    But now it’s gone.


    No more.

    La Niña - via NOAA The La Niña effect - via NOAA

    But just like any good story, the threat you thought posed the biggest problem was just the beginning. Following El Niño’s wake is his just as powerful sister, La Niña - the event in which the Pacific waters are cooled, as opposed to El Niño's heating of those same waters.

    OK, so may La Niña isn’t going to pose a huge threat. Actually, there will be some nice benefits, including a boost to the Southwest Monsoon over India, which will be a blessing after years of drought. La Niña could also very well reduce global temperatures, helping out with heat waves that have struck Asia and other locations.

    Sure, some good will come from La Niña, but there will also be some adverse effects. Since she has yet to come, we don’t know for certain what these effects will be. But we have some good ideas.

    According to CNN, La Niña will most likely bring about much drier conditions in the Southern Plains, the Rockies, and the Southwest. Lower temperatures and increased rainfall is expected in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

    When it comes to the Atlantic Hurricane season, however, things could escalate. Experts expect to see 14 names storms in the Atlantic, four of which are expected to be major hurricanes. Compared to last year’s 11 named storms and just two major hurricanes, if this prediction is accurate, it will be a significant increase in powerful storms.

    If this ends up being the case (as only time will tell), then the best time to prepare is now—before any potential storm develops. Get your emergency gear together: power sources, light, warmth, food, water, first aid, and other gear you’ll need to weather whatever comes your way.

    And if a hurricane doesn’t visit your area? Then you’ll still be prepared for other unfortunate events that could come your way.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - La Niña

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  • An Active Atlantic Hurricane Season (So Far)

    Hurricane Alicia via Johnson GT Hurricane Alicia - photo courtesy of Johnson GT

    In 1983, Hurricane Alicia slammed Houston and Galveston, killing 21, causing $2.6 billion in damage and forcing changes to Houston building codes after gravel atop skyscrapers shattered building windows.

    I was living in Houston when Alicia hit. I remember giant tree tops making circles in the wind. I remember the crash from a tree falling. I remember the rain smacking against our taped-up windows. I remember we lost the contents of our freezer after the storm knocked out power. But what I remember most is the heat. Our electricity didn’t get restored for a week after the storm ended. It was August in Texas – sauna weather anyway – and we weren’t allowed outside because of the damage. We children were miserable in our overheated, humid home.

    All things considered, my parents had prepared well to weather our first hurricane. We’d boarded and taped up the windows. (Studies have since shown that taping windows is ineffective.) We stockpiled food and water. We even held a barbecue before the hurricane to clean the raw meat out of our freezer in case we lost electricity. But we didn’t think of power loss beyond that. In fact, a vivid memory is an electric fan parked near the front door, silent and useless, days after the hurricane. We had central air conditioning, so the fan had to have been placed there for the emergency.

    Atlantic hurricane season officially started June 1, but it’s already been a busy year. The first hurricane of 2016 appeared in January. A tropical storm hit the Carolinas over Memorial Day weekend and another hit Florida a week later. Some forecasters are predicting the most active season since 2012.

    Now is the time to start preparing for hurricane season, especially if you live in a coastal area. Ready.gov has a list of preparation tools and ideas from this year’s National Weather Service Hurricane Preparation Week, May 15-21.

    These giant storms often cause widespread, long-lasting power outages. Having a power source can make a huge difference in our ability to communicate information and needs.

    During Hurricane Sandy, only a few places in lower Manhattan and New Jersey had power. New York University and Princeton University were two of them. They are both on a microgrid, a partially independent power network.

    "If you take a look at the blackouts that were in the New Jersey, New York, Connecticut realm of Superstorm Sandy, the only places that were up and operating were those places that had a microgrid," Steve Pullins, Vice President at Hitachi Microgrid Solutions, told Nexus Media.

    Princeton Microgrid - princeton.edu Princeton's microgrid - via princeton.edu

    Look at Princeton’s microgrid. The university has an on-campus power network that gets power from a nearby generator and solar panel field. Normally, the university is connected to the surrounding power grid and both takes from and supplies power to that grid. However, during Hurricane Sandy, Princeton’s microgrid was able to disconnect from the main grid and power the campus. For a day and a half, until the surrounding town got power back, emergency workers were able to use the university to recharge phones and equipment. The university also set up a hospitality area where local residents could warm up, recharge electronic devices and use wireless Internet service.

    “For a day and a half, we had to generate everything the campus needed,” said Ted Borer, Princeton's energy plant manager, in a Princeton news story. “Now, we can run the campus as an electric island in times of crisis.”

    Here are some ways to turn your home into an electric island, from Ready.gov, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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

    Keep your cell phone and other battery-powered devices charged and have an alternative charging method, like a generator. If you have an electric garage door opener, know how to release it manually.

    Keep your car’s gas tank full. You can run a vehicle for power, but not in an enclosed space, unless you like carbon monoxide poisoning.

    If you use a power-dependent or battery-operated medical device, tell your local utility so it can prioritize your home. Have a backup plan.

    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.




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