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  • Make Sure You Have These 7 Things Before the Next Snow Storm

    There’s a storm a-coming… So what are you doing to prepare?

    One of the best parts about snow storms is that we usually get prior warning before it comes and dumps who-knows-how-much white stuff all over us. Winter storms can knock out power for days or even weeks, grocery stores can be cleaned out the day before, and roads are turned into skating rinks. There are plenty of other hazards associated with snow storms, and once they arrive, the time to prepare is pretty much over. Fortunately, there’s still time!

    So, before the next big storm pays you a visit, what should you make sure you have? Let’s have a look at the really important stuff.

     

    Water

    Let’s face it, water is probably the most important part of prepping. If your water pipes burst or water becomes inaccessible for any other reason, you’ll be glad you have a store of water that will last you at least three days, more if possible.

    Water isn’t just for drinking. Of course, you’ll want to bathe or wash your hands or dishes…maybe even flush the toilet! Having at least one gallon of water per person per day will let you stay healthily hydrated, and give you enough water for basic sanitation.

     

    Food

    Humans need to eat, and if you’re reading this, my guess is you fall under that category. Make sure you have enough food for three days. Apples are a great food to have during emergencies. According to a CNN health article, not only are apples a fantastic source of many essential nutrients, but they also have a water content of 84%. That means apples can help keep you hydrated even when water is difficult to come by.

    FN_I115 Freeze-dried ice cream is out of this world!

    Freeze-dried fruits and vegetable, meats and full entrees are another great resource. The freeze-drying process retains nearly all of the original nutrients of the food, unlike dehydrated food which loses nearly half its original nutrients. Freeze-dried food is ideal, because you can buy it today and let it sit on your shelf for up to 25 years! This way, if a storm does come on you unannounced, you’ll already have fresh fruit and veggies and hearty meals stored away, so while you may be in the middle of a disaster situation, you’ll be eating just like you would (dare I say better, even?) if it had never happened.

    FEMA recommends having some sort of comfort food on hand. This can be whatever helps soothe you the best. My personal preference is chocolate. Others might be ice cream. While ice cream is difficult to store if the power’s out, freeze-dried ice cream can sit on the shelf and be perfectly good (and you can feel like an astronaut while you eat it, too).

     

    Sanitation

    Body wipes, dust masks, and hand sanitizer all have their place during an emergency. If the water’s off, body wipes might be the only way to bate. Likewise, hand sanitizer could be your only option to wash your hands after changing a dirty diaper.

     

    Infant Care

    Which brings me to the next category: babies. If you have young ones, will you have enough diapers to get you through until you can venture outside again? What about baby formula, or baby food? Plan ahead so that if going to the store becomes impossible, your younglings will still be taken care of.

     

    Light and Heat

    If the power goes out, so will your lights, and so will your furnace. Make sure you at least have enough blankets to stay warm, but also consider a portable propane heater (make sure it’s safe to run indoors). Heaters like these can make your living conditions a whole lot more comfortable.

    CK-H800-Portable-Buddy This Big Buddy heater is your best buddy when it's cold and you need heat.

    At the least, make sure you have candles for light. The sun sets pretty early in the winter, which means it gets dark faster, too. Having candles can turn your home from a gloomy dungeon to a nice, romantic getaway (even though that “getaway” may have been forced upon you). Check your flashlights and make sure they have fresh batteries. Hand-crank lights and other light sources are always a good idea to have around. Candles can only do so much, but long-lasting lanterns that don’t require electricity (such as these ones from Goal Zero) can bring bright light to your blacked-out home

     

    Fuel

    Make sure the gas tank in your car is topped off before the storm hits. If you need to get anywhere and the service station is out of commission, you'll be glad you did. If you have other gas tanks, such as propane for your grill, make sure you have a full tank as well, just in case it becomes your only option for cooking.

     

    Entertainment

    Let’s face it, you’re going to get bored quickly if you’re not prepared. The TV obviously won’t work without power, and your laptop can only run for so long before it needs a charge. So what’s a person to do? There are some good options to keep the boredom at bay.

    Reading is one of them. Be sure you have a light source handy (see above) so you can read once it gets dark. Reading a good book will not only make the time fly by, but you’ll be doing something that’s very enjoyable. If you need some recommendations, I’ll post some at the bottom of this article. I’ve got just what you need J

    Survive! Board Game Geek A thrilling game of Survive! is a great way to pass the time - Image via Board Game Geek

    Board games are another excellent way to pass the time. I love tabletop games. They are a great way to bring your family together for a good time. There are so many wonderful board games these days that you’ve probably never even heard of. By all means, bust out the Uno, Monopoly, and Risk (I love Risk), but again, if you would like some recommendations of fun games for you and your family (with some for everyone), I’ll make a list at the bottom of the post.

     

    Well, I’m sure there are other things not mentioned here that you would think obvious additions. By all means, please let us know in the comments what else you should prepare with!

     

     

    Book Suggestions

     

    Forbidden Island - via Dad's Gaming Addiction Play cooperatively as a family with Forbidden Island - Image via Dad's Gaming Addiction

    Board Game Suggestions

     

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  • Flint is Being Poisoned: Lead in the Drinking Water a Lingering Problem

    Flushing a Fire Extinguisher - Flint Flint's water problem is less than healthy... - via CNN

    Flint, Mich. is in crisis. Its 99,000 citizens haven’t had safe tap water for almost two years because of high concentrations of lead, and it could be months more before their water is safe. The National Guard has deployed soldiers to help pass out water, water filters and filter cartridges, and lead testing kits, and volunteers are going door to door with water.

    The state’s chief medical executive said every child in the city under six years old, an estimated 8,657, should be considered exposed to lead and get tested. Experts say lead poisoning most affects children and has a lifelong impact, leading to lower IQ, learning disabilities, speech and language problems and a higher risk for behavioral problems.

    In short, this crisis could continue for a long time and cost millions – even billions – of dollars.

    And, yes, it could happen to you.

    It didn’t have to happen. In 2014, a state-appointed city manager decided to change the city’s water supply to save about $9.2 million per year. Flint had been getting water from Lake Huron, but in April 2014 it switched to water from the Flint River while waiting to connect to a new regional water system (The new system isn’t ready yet). The river water corroded the city’s old pipes and leached their metals, including lead, into the water. Residents immediately complained about the change and a General Motors engine plant stopped using the water, saying it rusted parts. However, officials said the water was in compliance for safety.

    In September 2015, a group of doctors found a spike in lead levels in the blood of children and recommended Flint residents stop using city water for drinking and cooking. In mid-October, the state agreed to switch Flint’s water back to the previous system. But the pipes were already corroded, so the danger remained. On January 5, the governor declared a state of emergency and asked for federal help for the city. On January 16, President Obama declared it a federal emergency.

    Volunteers Helping Unload Water - Flint A volunteer helps unload water from a truck - via Independent

    The city had started passing out free water to residents. However, as of January 14, distribution was limited to a case per family, or about 3 gallons. FEMA recommends a disaster supply kit contain a gallon of water per person per day, so if a family has more than three people, they need alternate water sources. Many people and organizations are donating water. A list of ways to help is at the bottom.

    The mayor says the city’s pipes may need replacing, at a cost of up to $1.5 billion. But frankly, aging water infrastructure is a problem throughout the U.S.

    The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) in a 2013 report gave the U.S. a D+ grade for its drinking water infrastructure. Some water pipes are 100 years old. Some are made of wood. Many, even some installed in the 1980s, contain lead. The ASCE report said there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated it would cost $334.8 billion over 20 years to replace the old infrastructure. ASCE put the cost closer to $1 trillion. And frankly, water distributors don’t have the money. In 2010, Austin Water lost $53 million compared to its budget forecast, according to Circle of Blue, a water news service. The most expensive water bills are usually in places where infrastructure is being improved or water treatment equipment is being installed.

    Bottle Water and Kid - Flint People of Flint have to rely on bottled water - via Flint Journal

    Even functioning water systems have problems. Last August, algae blooms in Lake Erie poisoned the water supply for Toledo, causing hundreds of thousands of people to rely on bottled water for about a week.

    Individuals can help. The Environmental Protection Agency has steps people can take to protect watersheds. They include properly disposing hazardous material like motor oil and pesticides, volunteering for a watershed cleanup, and posting signs and stenciling storm drains with “No Dumping” reminders.

    Emergency Essentials sells many types of water filters. If lead is a concern, make sure that any filter is NSF certified for lead removal.

     

    How to help residents of Flint, from USA Today

    A fund has been established to address the short- and long-term needs of Flint children exposed to lead through contaminated drinking water. Donations can be made at www.flintkids.com.

    Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 39020 Five Mile in Livonia, is asking for gallon jugs of water to be dropped off at the church by Jan. 30. Volunteers will take the donations to be distributed in Flint. Call 734-464-0211.

    Flint Community Schools is accepting cash donations and bottled water. Call the district's finance office at 810-767-6030 about cash donations. Bottled water drop-offs can be coordinated by calling 810-760-1310.

    Donations are being accepted by the United Way of Genesee Count: Visit unitedwaygenesee.org and click on the "GIVE" button. There's an option to support the Flint Water Project. Call 810-232-8121 for details. A new phase for outreach is investment in services to help residents who have been exposed to contaminated water.

    Catholic Charities of Genesee County accepts cash or bottled water donations to aid soup kitchens and warming centers, call 810-785-6911.

    To help Flint community activists who are delivering water: Call Melissa Mays at 810-423-3435.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Flint

  • El Niño vs The Arctic Oscillation: Opposing Weather Systems Bring Extreme Weather

    In the U.S., this year’s winter weather has been like a boxing match, with the southern El Niño sparring with the northern Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation for temperature and precipitation supremacy.

    May the best oscillation win?

    El Niño is a once-every-several-years warming of the eastern Pacific. A major El Niño event, like the one we’re experiencing now, commonly brings buckets of precipitation to the southwest, buckets of precipitation and colder weather to the southeast, and slightly warmer, drier weather to the northern Rockies and Midwest.

    In December and into early January, El Niño had commanded the match. Temperatures in the northeast reached the 60s and even 70s, smashing record highs. At the same time, tornadoes in the southeastern U.S. – a common El Niño phenomenon – killed two dozen people in four days. The severe storms continued into January in the southeast, as a tornado touched down in Florida on January 9.

    Shirtless - USA Today - Arctic Oscillation And then there was this guy... "What Arctic Oscillation?" - via USA Today

    Here’s where the match got interesting, though. The same storm system that brought the Florida tornado also brought extreme cold temperatures and blasting wind to the Midwest. A January 10 football playoff game in Minnesota was the third-coldest NFL game ever played, with a kickoff temperature of -6 degrees F. The storm left more than 120,000 people without power across several states.

    This extreme cold is more characteristic of a polar vortex, caused by the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation. And it’ll probably continue through January.

    Arctic Oscillation El Niño is causing massive flooding in California, but won't do much in drought relief - via CBS News

    However, in California, El Niño is still the big hitter. The state is in a brief pause in a series of storms that could last for a few weeks. The storms are bringing lots of rain – which, alas, creates problems for awards ceremonies’ red carpet preliminaries – and causing floods in spots.

    Meteorologists expect even this El Niño won’t make much of a dent on the multi-year California drought. For starters, rainwater doesn’t stay put. Once the ground is saturated, water flows away, often in storm drains to the Pacific. In Orange County, in southern California, about half that water gets captured for later use. The rest ends up in the ocean.

    Rain Barrel - Arctic OscillationMany agencies in southern California are trying to collect more of that rainwater. On January 6, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan to spend $200 million for projects to capture more rain.

    In California and many other states, homeowners can capture rain for their own use. A 1,000-square-foot roof can collect 600 gallons from one inch of rain, according to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

    It’s not that hard to make a small rain capture system; WikiHow has directions. Basically, it requires making a platform for a rain barrel (or barrels), taking a barrel and adding a spigot and overflow valve, attaching it to a rain gutter’s downspout and putting a filter in the downspout to catch larger stuff that would clog it. To use the rainwater for landscaping or gardening, set up a drip irrigation system and run a hose out to it from the barrel.

    Professional installers can also make a larger rain capture system.

    A few caveats. First, this system is gravity-powered, so if you want to water higher than your collection location, you’ll need a pump. Second, this water’s not suitable for drinking. It needs boiling and filtering to become potable. Third, not all states and municipalities allow rainwater collection, and some allow it only on a limited basis. This is especially true in the west, where water rights are paramount.

    --Melissa

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Arctic Oscillation

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