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  • Lightning in Los Angeles

    lightning in Los Angeles

    In a rare display of wild summer weather, Southern California saw one death and a dozen injuries from lightning at the end of July. While summer is prime time for thunder and lightning storms (read why here) in some parts of the country, it’s a less common phenomenon on the West Coast.

    Which just goes to show the urgency of preparedness. If disasters were completely predictable, they wouldn’t be disasters, I suppose.

    Fox News describes the “monsoon moisture,” warm and humid, which led to countless reports of lightning and thunder around the Los Angeles region, as well as flooding on Catalina Island. The fatality took place on the popular Venice Beach, where people surfed, swam, and played volleyball as thunderclouds gathered overhead.

    The Red Cross reminds us that we should head inside at the first sound of thunder and that water is particularly dangerous in a thunderstorm. In fact, the list of tips they posted for this year’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week advises we stay safely indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last audible thunder clap. The Red Cross, NOAA, and AccuWeather.com all have great articles and tip lists for lightning safety. And if you want a little more reading, here are some of our recent articles on the deadly beauty.

    I know it’s summer, and we all want to be outside, just remember to keep  an eye on the skies. Better a ruined picnic than a trip to the ER!



  • What to Expect (or not) from El Nino

    What to Expect (or not) from El Nino

    Here’s a cheerful headline to brighten your week: “El Niño is Going to Make Your 2014 Miserable.” Thank you, salon.com, for the good news.

    Actually, 2014 is half over already, and it’s been a pretty fair six months for me, so I’m not getting too hand-wringy quite, yet. I am, however, interested to see what kinds of wacky weather the warm Pacific currents have in store.

    The trick about El Niño, as we were informed by the Weather Channel recently (see their article, “Hurricane Season 2014: 5 Things You Need to Know”), is that its effects are famously unpredictable. Even salon.com’s efforts to sound dire are compromised, as experts warn us that the year could be unusually wet or unusually dry…or, um, neither.

    “Regions across the U.S. that are normally wet can dry out during El Niño conditions, while normally dry regions can flood.” Worldwide expectations related to El Niño are not always accurate, however. “There is an expectation of drought, but not in every single El Niño event do we actually have drought,” Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, said.

    Well, that certainly clears things up.

    Sounds to me like a good time to be prepared for any eventuality. So here are some articles to help get you set for whatever El Niño has in store for your area.

    Keep an eye on the skies, and let us know how El Niño is affecting you this year!


  • Beat the Extreme Heat: Tips for Surviving Hot Weather

     Beat the Extreme Heat: Tips for Surviving Hot Weather

    It’s Summer. And for those of us in the northern hemisphere, that means heat (unless you go too far north, of course). We published an article back in May called Beat the Heat: Staying Safe When Temperatures Rise that gives a great overview of heat-related issues and four basic tips for warmer weather.

    But what about extreme heat? The kind that’s not normal summer weather, but can actually be classified as a natural disaster.

    The Dangers of Extreme Heat

    In extreme heat (especially combined with high humidity), the body struggles to maintain a normal temperature, causing heat-related illnesses. Additionally, the elderly and young children are more susceptible to problems associated with extreme heat (as are those who are sick, pregnant, or overweight).

    Extreme heat is often associated with stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality, which means people living in urban areas may be at greater risk during a prolonged heat wave than those in rural areas.

    An additional problem with heat in urban areas is the amount of asphalt and concrete. Those materials store heat longer and gradually release it at night, which can raise the nighttime temperatures as well, which prevents cooling.

    So, what can you do to stay safe? Plenty.

    Before Extreme Heat

    Like any natural disaster, it’s important to prepare before it happens. Here are some things you can do:

    • Make sure you have an emergency kit and that extreme heat is covered in your family’s emergency plans.
    • Be prepared to administer first aid for heat-related emergencies
    • Know the risks of heat-related illness and be aware of those who are most susceptible in your neighborhood (elderly, young, sick, pregnant, overweight).
    • If living in an urban area, realize that you may be at greater risk from the effects of extreme heat, especially if prolonged.
    • Be aware of upcoming weather events and temperature changes.
      • Prepare your home
        • Install window air conditioners snugly and insulate if necessary
        • Check your air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
        • Weather-strip doors and sills to prevent cool air leakage
        • Cover windows that receive a lot of sun with drapes, shades, awnings, etc.
        • Keep storm windows up all year.
        • Install temporary window reflectors (such as aluminum foil) to reflect heat back outside. Place between windows and drapes.

    During Extreme Heat

    Once you have done your best to prepare, what can you do while a heat wave is raging?

    • Listen or watch for critical updates from the National Weather Service (radio, internet, or television)
    • Never leave pets or children alone in closed vehicles (this applies year round, of course, not just during extreme heat waves).
    • Stay indoors as much as possible, and limit exposure to the sun.
      • If you must go outside, avoid extreme temperature changes (cold air-conditioned house to extreme heat outside) by acclimating yourself before going outside and by wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and a wide-brimmed hat.
    • Postpone outdoor games and activities, and consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings where there is more air circulation (which can increase the evaporation rate of perspiration).
    • Drink plenty of water (even if you’re not thirsty) and eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals.
      • If you’re on a fluid-restricted diet, make sure you talk to your physician before increasing your intake.
    • Limit intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. These types of drinks can cause you to become dehydrated very easily.
    • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. If you must work outdoors during extreme heat, don’t do it alone, make use of the buddy system, take frequent breaks, and stay hydrated.
    • Check on friends, family, and neighbors who may not have air-conditioning and who spend much of their time alone. Also check on pets frequently to ensure they are not suffering from the heat.
    • If your home loses power during extreme heat, go to a designated public cooling center. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter, or check you city’s website.

    Extreme heat is dangerous and potentially deadly. Take time now to be prepared for any heat wave that may come your way. For more tips check out FEMA's website at  http://www.ready.gov/heat

    Have you experienced extreme heat? What did you do to prepare and what did you do to stay safe during the heat wave?


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