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  • Severe Weather Has Its Own Timetable: Now Is the Time to Prepare

    Tornado Severe WeatherIowa’s statewide tornado drill, held on March 24, was supposed to be held the day before. It was postponed because of bad weather.

    Natural disasters don’t exactly conform to our timetables. Yet many have a seasonal ebb and flow. Although tornadoes occur year-round, most take place in the spring and early summer – hence, tornado season. Floods are common in March and April because of heavy rain and melting snow. Hurricane season peaks in August and September.

    This seasonal nature of wild weather could explain why 33 states and U.S. territories held severe weather awareness events in March. Another 21 events are planned for April.

    Events varied from state to state. Last week, for example, California sponsored Tsunami Preparedness Week, while Colorado nailed some extremes with Flood Safety and Wildfire Preparedness Week. Maryland’s Severe Storms Awareness Week highlighted a different hazard every day.

    The point of all this is, if you haven’t started preparing for a natural disaster, now’s a good time.

    One goal of Maryland’s awareness week was to highlight the difference between a watch and a warning, so people can act appropriately.

    A watch meansTornado Watch - Severe Weather that atmospheric conditions are right for severe weather to develop, but it hasn’t yet. Severe weather watches tend to last for longer time periods. A warning means severe weather is imminent or occurring, so take appropriate action now. The terminology is the same for many types of severe weather: tornadoes, flooding, severe thunderstorms, winter storms and hurricanes.

    Sometimes the National Weather Service issues weather advisories. These can refer to specific weather hazards within a storm, like a high wind advisory. They can also refer to severe weather that is imminent or occurring but won’t have quite as adverse an impact. A flood advisory, for example, is for flooding that shouldn’t really affect life or property.

    A month ago, eight tornadoes touched down in Virginia, killing five people.  Virginia’s governor referenced that disaster in a proclamation calling March 22 Tornado Preparedness Day.

    “All Virginians should know where to seek shelter during a tornado, whether at home, at work, at school, or elsewhere,” the proclamation said.

    Part of preparing for a disaster is knowing how to respond appropriately. For example, before a tornado, pick the safest place to shelter in a building. A basement is best, but if that’s not available, go to the center of a small, interior room on a building’s lowest floor. Either way, get under something and cover your head and neck. This advice doesn’t apply to mobile homes or buildings. From those, go to the nearest shelter.

    Flooded Street of Des Plains City - Severe Weather

    Evacuating if directed is also the best course of action during a flood. But be careful. Flooding is the deadliest weather hazard, mostly because people try to drive or walk across flooded roads and bridges. Be sure to have alternate routes to get to a shelter in case the main route is flooded.

    Once you’ve got a plan, practicing it is equally important.

    Employees of the Clear Lake, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce participated in this year’s delayed Iowa tornado drill. The Chamber’s Director of Tourism, Libbey Patton, said in a TV news story that chamber members had inclement weather plans for both office and events.

    “And we have had to use it a few years ago for [a weekly event] just to get everyone home and off the roads,” she said.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Severe Weather
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  • National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

    Prep yourself each day with a new survival skill during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

    Throughout 2013, severe weather disasters touched down all across the country. Whether citizens faced tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, or other disasters, the importance of preparing became very apparent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up for their third year to inform the public how to best prepare for severe weather. They have chosen March 2-8, 2014 as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

    This year’s campaign, “Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step,” encourages individuals to set an example for others in their communities through disaster preparation and responses. For example, when tornado warnings, hurricane alerts, or other alarms notify the public of oncoming weather conditions, be an example and take action first rather than ignore the warnings.

    Often many will choose not to seek shelter immediately after hearing the alert. Instead, they wait to hear a second warning. Sometimes a second warning never comes. But once in a while that second alarm will sound and those who didn’t act after the first alert are caught in the chaos of a severe weather storm. If you take action to prepare, others will follow and, ultimately, stay safe.

    Knowing how to prepare for different weather disasters—and responding immediately to warnings—can help save your life. And so FEMA and NOAA ask you to “Be a Force of Nature.”

    Throughout this week, “Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step” challenges the public to take a single preparedness action each day. Your action can be something simple such as preparing an emergency evacuation plan for your family, or as complex as building your food and water storage supply. No matter what action you choose to do, this week is meant to better prepare you and your community for severe weather.

    Check back this week for tips on what you can do to stay safe during severe storms.

    Sources:

    http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1392907694854-c8defc5a1deef616f4c2fefb760b65bd/Severe+Weather+Preparedness+WeekToolkit.pdf

  • Lightning--The "Strikingly Beautiful" Danger

     

     

    iStock_000004387298XSmall_storm clouds and lightning in field

    According to NOAA, as of July 1st, 2013, there have been 9 lightning fatalities this year. And while researchers at National Geographic suggest that “the odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000,” on average, 54 people die each year from a lightning strike while participating in outdoor activities.

    Summer is the perfect time for outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, and swimming; it’s also the perfect time for thunderstorms. Since we are in the heart of summer, consider learning how to protect yourself from lightning during a thunderstorm.

    What’s the relationship between thunder and lightning??

    Thunder doesn't exist without lightning! This is why you should never say, “it’s just thundering and there’s no lightning, so it’s okay to stay outside.” Thunder’s shock wave can hurt people and property if it’s close enough. To determine how far away the lightning is, figure about one mile for every five seconds between the flash and the report. Don’t assume you’re safe if the storm is several miles away—lightning has a long reach!

    What attracts lightning?
    Discovery Channel’s “How Stuff Works” site suggests that objects on Earth—water, trees, steeples, towers, metal, and you and I!—all send up climbing surges of positively-charged electricity known as streamers. Tall, pointed objects send up the longest streamers around, attracting any available lightning bolts and sending them harmlessly into the ground.

    These streamers create a channel that the electrical charge passes through, “inviting” the lightning (which follows the path of least resistance). When lightning comes within 150 feet of Earth, it latches onto a convenient streamer and follows it to the source—and zap! You have a lightning strike.

    Where are lightning strikes common?
    According to weather.com, Florida is the United States’ lightning capital because of warm, moist air from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. However, more people are struck by lightning in wide-open spaces (imagine the Arkansas landscape!). Since lightning strikes the tallest objects in its path, people, horses, and even cattle in a wide-open space are vulnerable, especially if no other tall objects (like a building or water tower) are in the area.

    How do you protect yourself in the open?

    • If you hear thunder or see lightning, go inside or get in a car with the windows rolled up. DO NOT touch any metal.
    • If no shelter is available, crouch or sit in as compact a position as possible with your head down—but DO NOT lie flat or allow your head to touch the ground!
    • DO NOT shelter under a tree.
    • DO NOT stay in or close to water. Electrical current spreads across the water’s surface.
    • If you’re caught in a boat, make yourself as small as you can. (Remember that streamer you’re sending up? It becomes longer the taller you are. Make it as short as possible by crouching down and lowering your head.)
    • AVOID golf-carts, trees, light-poles, picnic pavilions, and port-a-potties.

    What do you do if someone is struck by lightning?
    Victims of lightning strikes may suffer burns, coma, residual weakness, numbness, paralysis, sleep disturbance, or memory loss.

    In the event of a lightning strike, call 9-1-1 immediately then give first-aid to the victim, who will probably be unconscious. Check for breathing and heartbeat, and let those with First Aid training or experience perform CPR. Don’t be afraid to touch the victim— they won’t retain the electrical charge—but if you have to move them, be careful. If possible, move the victim to safe shelter. Continue first aid measures until professionals arrive.

     

    To read more about Lightning check out these articles:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0623_040623_lightningfacts.html

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/features/trend/lightning-fatalities-avoid-bei/68706

    http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/fatalities.htm

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/lightning.htm

    http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning-profile/

    http://www.uwec.edu/jolhm/EH4/Lightning/Lightning/how_lightning_works.htm

    http://www.weather.com/safety/thunderstorms/top-5-lightning-prone-states-20120509

    http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm#near

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