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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.



    Disaster_Blog_Banner Arctic Oscillation

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  • 7 Things Every New Prepper Needs to Know

    This is a guest post by J.D. Phillips of SurvivalCrackas.com


    I want you imagine a few things before we get going:

    1. Imagine if you had to learn everything about math, physics or any other subject for that matter – all on your own.
    2. Imagine if you had to do it by reading articles, watching TV shows and YouTube videos.

    It's safe that assume that you'd feel overwhelmed, right?

    These subjects are so exhaustive and extensive that you wouldn't have the faintest idea of where to start. You might click on a video about astrophysics but it would sound like Chinese to you as you're not even acquainted with basic concepts such as the law of gravity. You would feel baffled and might even feel a little....dumb!

    Three hikers watching the mapWell, that is exactly how new preppers might feel when confronted with the idea of preparing for survival. Unfortunately, schools and colleges teach us absolutely nothing about survival. Moreover, mainstream society is totally blind to the problems of the future. They are most concerned about the newest in celebrity relationships. They think that people who plan and prepare for survival are silly!

    Thankfully, there are a few resources (like this website) that educate people about survival and prepping without constantly trying to shove products down their throats.


    Here are the 7 most important things that every prepper should know.


    1) Understand that Rome was not built in a day!

    Don't try to do it all at once. No matter how hard you try – you cannot prepare for survival over the coming weekend. Prepping is not an event; it is a process – a lifestyle.

    Of course, you should try to learn as much you can, as quickly as you can. But try to build a strong foundation first. Work on your fitness, learn about survival knots, learn how to build shelters and fires, create a bug out bag, start accumulating food and water.

    Once you do this, then you can move to advanced concepts such as shooting techniques, chemical warfare survival, nuclear war survival, stealth, code language, tactical operations, and so on.


    2) Don’t forget to practice what you learn:

    The last step...For many people, learning about survival simply means watching hours of videos or TV shows. However, they never actually practice the techniques that they learn about. If things do get crazy, then you cannot rely solely on theory to help you out.

    For example: It's fine and dandy to say that if you're stranded in the wilderness, you'd just build a fire to signal for rescue.

    But have you actually tried to start a fire in uncontrollable conditions?

    Do you know the basic ground to air communication signals?

    What if people do see your fire but they assume that you're just having fun camping out in the woods?


    3) Start saving money:

    Survival does not come cheap! So you better start saving for it right now. You can easily avoid excessive expenses such as cigarettes, alcohol, etc.

    Do you really need a thousand dollar cell phone, or are you buying it just to impress your friends?

    If the idea of cutting down on expenses seems restricting, start your own home-based business or work an extra shift each week. Maybe try growing your own food!

    Look for great deals on survival goods (first aid kids, candles etc.) at garage sales and thrift shops. Buy a firearm or a GPS instead of spending money on designer clothes and electronics. Spend conservatively but don't skimp on essentials such as proper footwear, clothing, water filtration systems, etc.


    4) Try to predict the type the catastrophe that is most likely to affect you and plan accordingly.

    River FloodFor example, if you live in Texas, you are bound to experience at least one major natural disaster every year.

    • The most common mishaps in Texas are coastal hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires.
    • Florida is highly prone to flooding and hurricanes.
    • California is almost an earthquake waiting to happen.
    • New York is a major target for terrorists.
    • Detroit and St Louis have the highest crime rates in the country.

    If you're wondering where to begin, this is your answer.

    Begin by preparing for the most probable disaster in your region.


    5) Mingle with other preppers:

    Prepping is much more fun if you make friends with other people who share the same views and interests as you. If you prep alone, you'll probably become bored in a matter of days.

    Join a local group or start your own. Many groups organize educational and recreational events such as boot camps, seminars, conventions etc. These ensure that you stay interested and informed. Also, it is great to have a community or other prepared individuals to fall back upon in a survival scenario.


    6) Slow and steady wins the race:

    New preppers are very enthusiastic in the beginning. They buy stuff, talk to everybody they meet about the importance of prepping, they watch loads of Bear Grylls shows, etc.

    However, after a while – they run out of steam and lose interest.

    Like in any other field of life, you cannot accomplish much in terms of survival if you lack consistency. Develop habits that make you a better prepper.

    Buy an extra can of food every time you go out shopping. Don't just throw away empty bottles, fill them up with water and store them in your basement.

    Spend your weekends practicing survival techniques with friends – go camping instead of sitting in front of the TV or going to the mall and buying things that you really don't need.


    7) Don't live in fear.

    You're probably thinking about getting into prepping because you realize that we live in a dangerous world. However, there's really no point in being paranoid all the time.

    Do what you can and stop worrying about that what you cannot control. If anything, you should learn to treasure and savor the present even more.

    Create your own survival manual and keep updating it constantly. Throw in a copy of this manual into your bug out bag. There is no way you're going to remember everything that you've ever read.

    Good luck – enjoy your next adventure responsibly.

    OH - and Merry Christmas!

    About the Author: J.D. Phillips Runs SurvivalCrackas.com and lives with his family in Southern California. You can follow him on Facebook and download his Guide How to Build the Ultimate Disaster Kit free of charge!



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