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  • China Floods Displace Millions

    China Floods - Via BBC China floods - via BBC

    China knows very well about extreme weather. Monsoons, typhoons, earthquakes, floods, drought…you name it. Even though extreme weather and natural disasters are something they are used to, every new disaster still comes as a shock.

    On July 20, 2016, China’s Hebei and Henan provinces were pounded by a monsoon which caused the Qili River to flood. There was no advanced warning, and not enough time to act. The floods killed over 150 people and displaced millions.

    But this isn’t the first time such chilling devastation has affected China due to flood. In fact, since the beginning of this year at least 1,074 people have lost their lives in China due to floods, winds, hail, and many geological happenings.

    China knows all about natural disasters. Throughout the years, they have seen countless floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. But if there’s one thing we learned from this most recent flood, it’s that early warning is key.

    Public officials failed to give enough warning to the people, which, had it been otherwise, could have saved lives. While it is a tragic event – one the locals had a hard time predicting – we can learn from it. When it comes to emergency preparedness, being informed and staying aware of what’s going on around you can save your life.

    Man Clearing Leaves From Guttering Of House China floods

    For example, learn whether you live in an area susceptible to flooding. Before the rain even comes, find ways to keep your home protected. Make sure gutters and storm drains are not blocked. Invest in sand bags if you know flooding has been an issue in the past, or think it could be in the future.

    Get flood insurance. Flood insurance doesn’t become active until 30 days after you buy it, so if you see rain on the forecast, chances are it’s already too late. Don’t wait until the last minute if you know you’re in a flood-prone area. Act now.

    Just like the folks in China, we can’t always rely on others to inform us of impending dangers. Sure, we’ve had reliable warnings and watches for quite some time so tuning in to your local weather alert station is always a great idea. But you know your area better than anyone, and that means you know the dangers that come with it, so even if the weather station reports “no flood watch,” you know your area might be an exception, so plan accordingly.


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  • Hurricane Katrina: The Costliest Hurricane in United States History

    Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA - costliest hurricane Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA

    Last year was the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in United States history. Since then, the major hurricane drought has continued, with 11 years and no major hurricanes, defined as Category 3, 4 and 5. In fact, in the last seven years only four hurricanes have hit the U.S., a streak not seen since the nation began keeping hurricane statistics in 1851.

    Still, the last 11 years have brought many lessons about hurricanes.

    First, the strength of a hurricane isn’t the best predictor of its destructiveness. Flooding and storm surge cause more death and damage than wind.

    Hurricane Katrina, was only a Category 3, on a scale of 1 to 5, when it made landfall in 2005. Sandy, the second-most expensive, was only a Category 1 when it came ashore in New Jersey.

    Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico in 2015, was the second-strongest hurricane in recorded history. Yet its storm surge was small, and it landed in a rural area, so damage was limited.

    Second, communication and transportation are key before, during and after a hurricane. After Hurricane Katrina, businesses had trouble communicating with employees and customers, according to a booklet by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina: Preparing Your Institution for a Catastrophic Event.

    Both land lines and cell towers were damaged. Mail was disrupted for a long time thereafter, so bill payments couldn’t get through and services got canceled as a result. Roads were washed out and infrastructure damaged so people couldn’t get to jobs or even evacuation centers. Once they were in evacuation centers, flooding and diverted transportation kept them from leaving.

    Superdome - via Tony's Huddle - costliest hurricane Inside the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina - via Tony's Huddle

    Take the Superdome, which became a symbol of the horror a hurricane can inflict. When the Superdome general manager agreed to open the building as an emergency shelter, it was originally intended to hold fewer than 1,000 patients with special medical needs for about two days, according to a story in For the Win, a subsidiary of USA Today.

    It eventually held 30,000 people for almost a week. Debris, water, and destroyed transportation corridors kept food, medical supplies, and fuel from getting to New Orleans. Phone service, including 911, was almost nonexistent.

    “When roads are flooded, washed out, blocked by trees and power lines, etc., it takes a while to get them back in order. That means you need to be prepared to get by for at least a few days and, much better, at least a couple of weeks on your own,” wrote Glenn Reynolds, an editorial contributor to USA Today, in a story about lessons from Katrina.

    On the other hand, the owner of Liedenhelmer Banking Company in New Orleans closed the company’s plant and encouraged his employees to prepare their homes and evacuate, according to a an article from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The company also kept phone numbers and evacuation contact information for key employees. After the hurricane, all his employees were safe, though many suffered losses. He later arranged for a carpool service to take employees in shelters to and from work.

    “What some of our folks faced and what they are still facing in their personal lives is heart-breaking. It is important to listen to the needs of employees,” he told FEMA.

    Third, financial systems break down during a hurricane. After Katrina, power outages and overwhelmed backup servers left banks without computer access, including access to customers’ financial information, according to Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina. In addition, some bank branches and ATMs were under water for weeks and others were severely damaged.

    Keep cash in small bills in a short-term emergency kit, suggested Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah

    Emergency managers fear the lack of recent hurricanes is making people complacent. Katrina and other recent hurricanes taught that preparing for hurricanes beforehand can reduce problems after.

    "The farther we get from the last hurricane, the closer we get to the next one," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen told USA Today.


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  • The Latest Heat Wave is Now

    I don’t want to complain about how hot it is out there, but two hobbits just ran by and threw a ring into the local park.

    As of the morning of Friday July 22, 2016, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (among others) were placed under heat wave alerts. This is the first time in over a decade that these three major cities have all been under the same heat advisory. There are a total of 26 states under heat alerts.

    July 23 Heat Wave Index - NOAA

    The hot temperatures are going to all but permeate the nation this weekend with plenty of 100 degree readouts over the course of this weekend. With such extreme temperatures, be careful. Heat-related illnesses are prevalent during heat waves.

    CNN reminds everyone that hot temperatures are extremely dangerous even during the night while we sleep – sometimes even more deadly than daytime heat. They say that in order to recover from the day’s heat, temperatures must drop to at least 80 degrees. Otherwise your body will be hard pressed to recover, and this leads to extended heat exhaustion or death.

    If you can, keep the AC on. Just cranking up your fans in extreme heat conditions merely circulates the warm air, and is not an effective method to cool the place down. Staying cool is even more difficult in urban settings, due to the asphalt, concrete, and buildings trapping the heat which makes it “warmer during the day, but the real impact can be at night,” according to CNN.

    Since so much heat is absorbed into the asphalt and concrete, it is released much slower, increasing the temperatures a good 20 degrees hotter than in areas outside of the city. This makes it difficult for the cool night air to bring its much needed relief.

    Chicago Heat Wave - via Chicago Tribune Chicago Heat Wave of 1995 - via Chicago Tribune

    To illustrate the dangers of excessive heat, all we need to do is look back at the Chicago heat wave of 1995. It was July, and temperatures surpassed the 100 degrees mark. Due to the tar roofs, asphalt, concrete, brick buildings, and other urban heat traps, combined with humidity, made it feel like 125 degrees. The three-day heat wave left 739 people dead.

    Young children and the elderly are most likely to develop heat-related illnesses (i.e. heat stroke and heat exhaustion), and if not watched, could become critical. Even healthy individuals can become bogged down with heat, increasing their risk.

    To help counter the heat, drink lots of water. Keeping your body hydrated will lessen the chances of heat exhaustion. Also stay where the air conditioning is. Libraries, malls, movie theaters, and other public areas will be blasting the cool air, so plan to spend some time in those areas when you can. Stay off the streets. As mentioned above, the city’s asphalt, concrete, brick, and more will only add to the heat.

    Rest. It’s not worth overheating yourself just to get a few more things accomplished. If you’re feeling a bit too warm, take a break (you deserve one, anyway). Live Science also recommends leaving your sweat on your skin. This is your body’s natural way of keeping cool, so keep it there.


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