snow storm

  • Bombogenesis Strikes the East Coast

    By Melissa Rivera

     

    Bombogenesis - Via Euro News Bombogenesis - Photo via Euro News

     

    Yes, I know all of you in the West, in your light-jacket-temperatures, are chortling about those wuss easterners who can’t handle a little snow and cold. And, frankly, at least in northern Virginia, there’s some truth to that. Our local school district canceled school for two days in response to the “bomb cyclone.” We got less than six inches of snow. To be fair, though, the wind was strong enough to push the wind chill to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks. And knock a squirrel out of a tree. I’d never seen that before.

    Other places got it worse.

    Five feet of snow buried Erie, Penn., over Christmas, blocking people in their homes.

    In Boston, storm surge from the New Year’s nor’easter sent slushy seawater flooding into streets. People had to quickly evacuate homes and submerged cars. The flood waters then froze in place, turning streets into feet-deep ice rinks and blocking fire hydrants.

    About 79,000 people lost power throughout the eastern U.S.

    New York City’s Central Park had more snow on the ground than had been seen in 30 years. In New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the storm canceled flights, then a deep freeze caused equipment malfunction, leading to more delayed or canceled flights and problems retrieving luggage. Police had to break up a fight. The cold also caused pipes to burst, flooding a terminal with three feet of water.

    According to the New York Times, New York Senator Chuck Schumer complained, “J.F.K. has to follow the Boy Scouts’ motto: ‘Be prepared.’ They weren’t.”

    My family was prepared, mainly because we just moved from the west. Where we live in northern Virginia didn’t get hit that hard. The power never went out. My husband could get to Washington, D.C. for work, though traffic was abominable. My younger children spent their two snow days outside, trying unsuccessfully to build snowmen with powdery snow and sledding down hills that quickly became mud.

    So, why did they have snow days anyway? For starters, the roads weren’t cleared. Cities here contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation to remove snow. In northern Virginia alone, that’s almost 18,000 lane miles, according to VDOT. The nearest VDOT headquarters is in another city a 20 minute drive from ours in good weather. VDOT says it has access to 4,000 snow clearing vehicles in northern Virginia, but adds that most are pickup trucks with snow blades. You know those big snow trucks used to clear major roads? VDOT in northern Virginia has two of them. (To be fair, the roads here are so narrow and winding, the big trucks wouldn’t work on many of them.)

    I’ve been told the temperature here usually rises quickly after snowfall, so solar plowing is a fairly effective form of snow control. Right before the January 4 storm, I went to buy snow melt for our steps and sidewalk, just in case. I had to ask for help to find it. It was in the far back of the store, behind Christmas decorations on clearance.

    A couple of days after the storm, snow melt was displayed front and center in another store.

    It’s been cold and windy enough that the snow didn’t melt. It wasn’t as bad as Mount Washington, Vermont, which tied the record for the second-coldest place on earth with a wind chill temperature of -96. But it was cold enough that my 12-year-old special needs daughter was crying after waiting outside for her bus for a half hour, even though I bundled her up like the little kid in “A Christmas Story.” It was cold enough that my cell phone froze when I tried to use it to call the school district’s transportation department to learn the reason behind the wait. It was cold enough that some school buses didn’t work, including my daughter’s.

    It was windy enough to knock over full trash cans and send them –and their contents – sliding down slick roads. And it was cold enough and windy enough that I watched a squirrel on a branch get caught in a wind gust and slip off. Fortunately, it only fell a few feet, to the roof of a home.

    My kids went back to school today, with a two-hour delayed start time. I just got a message saying that, because of impending inclement weather, school would be dismissed two hours early. At least we’re still prepared for the weather. Here we go again.

     

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  • A Dozen Disasters to Remember 2015: A Year in Review

    The hottest year on record, 2015, showed the need to prepare for a wide variety of disasters. Here are a dozen, and one way to prepare for each.

     

    In January, a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland over the winter break spread to 14 states, infecting 117 people, according to USA Today.

    It started a national discussion about whether or not to vaccinate. It also served as a reminder: An epidemic can start anywhere and spread everywhere.

    How to prepare: Make sure to keep medicine on hand, says ready.gov. This includes nonprescription drugs like pain relievers, stomach settlers and cold medicines, as well as fluids with electrolytes and vitamins. If possible get enough prescription medication to ensure a continuous supply.

     

    8 Feet of Snow - via The Weather NetworkJanuary was almost over when an historic snowstorm clobbered the northeast. The storm, which began January 26, brought more than 30 inches of snow to at least 54 locations from Long Island, N.Y., to Maine, according to weather.com. It also brought blizzards and flooding. And it was only the beginning.

    Through mid-March, storm after storm after storm slammed New England. Boston basically shut down when too much snow clogged transportation arteries. The city eventually recorded a record 110.6 inches of snow for the season. One organization estimated Massachusetts alone lost $1 billion in wages and profits, and the school year stretched until the end of June.

    With the snow came near-record cold. At least six cities had their coldest February recorded. Hundreds of daily temperature records also fell. The cold was fatal for 28 people in seven states, according to NOAA's storm data reported in weather.com.

    How to prepare: Get snow removal equipment, says ready.gov. Get products to melt ice on walkways, sand and snow removal equipment. Andrew Thimmig, who lived in a suburb of Boston during the winter, said get more than one snow shovel – because if the snow’s heavy enough, one will break.

     

    In March, NOAA climatologists announced El Niño’s arrival. This recurring climate phenomenon, characterized by warmer-than-normal water off the equatorial coast of South America, strengthened by December into one of the three strongest on record.

    El Niño can change weather patterns all over the world. In the United States, it often brings especially rainy weather to the southwest and southeast, and warmer weather to the northern plains and northeast.

    How to prepare: Follow the forecasts. If you live in a state like California that tends to see flooding during an El Niño year, consider flood insurance.

     

    Kathmandu Earthquake 01 - ABCOn April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. The quake and its aftershocks damaged or destroyed almost 900,000 buildings in the capital of Kathmandu and the surrounding regions, according to one report. It also triggered an avalanche on Mt. Everest that killed 19 people. At least 2,100 people died.

    How to prepare: Look around your home. Are mirrors, pictures and heavy furniture secured to the wall? If not, look for kits to do so. Home furnishings store IKEA provides free mounting kits for its larger furniture.

     

    May brought heavy flooding to the plains and southeast. DeWitt, Neb., was evacuated and most of it flooded in a May 6-7 storm. A storm that brought massive flash floods over the Memorial Day weekend killed at least 23 people in three states. In total, at least 40 people died.

    How to prepare: Have a disaster kit ready to grab and go. Emergency Essentials sells several or build your own. Instructions for one are at ready.gov.

     

    The California drought was big news over the summer, after an April 1 snow survey found bare ground in the Sierra Nevada mountain range for the first time. Drought and heat also dominated the discussion in the northwest, which saw June and July temperatures more appropriate for Death Valley, Calif. On July 9, three towns in Washington state tied Death Valley’s 104-degree high, according to weather.com Ten days later, another Washington town hit 107 degrees. At least four deaths in Oregon were attributed to the heat.

    How to prepare: Know first aid. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control site has this list of symptoms for heat-related illnesses and directions for treating them.

     

    In July, the remnant of Hurricane Dolores in the Pacific brought “super historic” rainfall to southern California, according to weather.com. Interstate 10 closed when a bridge collapsed near Desert Center, Calif., and the San Diego Padres saw their first home rainout since 2006.

    How to prepare: Be ready when you travel. Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full in case you get stopped on the road or have to make a detour.

     

    Firefighter - ABC News via ABC News

    July and August saw more than 70 major wildfires in the (mostly) parched west, according to ABC News. The Valley Fire in Northern California burned more than 76,000 acres and destroyed 1,281 homes, according to weather.com. Six people died from fires in California and three more in Washington.

    How to prepare: Have vital information ready to go. A woman who saw the Wenatchee Fire in Washington said some people had just five minutes to evacuate. FEMA provides an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help identify records to keep safe. It’s available here.

     

    Blood Moon - Washington Post Blood Moon - via Washington Post

    It wasn’t a disaster, but it’s been considered a harbinger of one. On September 27, a supermoon eclipse briefly turned the moon red for much of the western hemisphere. The next time we’ll see such a phenomenon is 2033.

    How to prepare: Reminders to prepare occur daily, whenever there’s another natural disaster story in the news. Just start preparing. Pick up one thing you need and slowly build up your emergency prep. If you already have an emergency kit, take a half hour to see if it’s up to date. It doesn’t take much time or money if you prepare in small bits.

     

    Hurricane Patricia surprised everyone when it exploded from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane October 22-23, according to weather.com. Equally surprising was its collapse shortly after landfall Mexico. No one died in the hurricane itself. However, its soggy aftermath added more rainfall to record flooding in the southeastern U.S. An October 10 storm had poured up to 15 inches on parts of South Carolina in 24 hours, causing widespread flooding and 19 deaths. Up to 160,000 homes may have been damaged.

    How to prepare: Know where to go in case you must evacuate. Know where local emergency shelters will be and have primary and alternate routes, suggests ready.gov. Never drive on a flooded road.

     

    A windstorm on November 17 killed three people and left more than a million without power in the Pacific Northwest. Spokane International Airport recorded record wind gusts of 71 miles per hour. The wind toppled trees and power poles and damaged buildings. Power was not entirely restored for 10 days.

    How to prepare: Keep electronic equipment charged. Emergency Essentials sells emergency chargers.

     

    This week, a winter storm, appropriately named Goliath by weather.com, brought 10 foot snowdrifts to New Mexico, tornadoes to Texas and massive flooding through the central and eastern U.S. So far, 43 people have died.

    How to prepare: Natural disasters can cause damage over a large area. Ready.gov recommends having emergency contact information for someone in another state in case of widespread damage in your area. Make sure family members know the out-of-state contact person’s information.

     

    And these were just the big headliners of the year. Of course, many things can transpire throughout the year. If we’ve learned anything from 2015, it’s that the unexpected can and most certainly will happen. We can’t predict everything, but we sure can be prepared for it!

    Have a safe, prepared 2016!

     

    That's our year in review! How did 2015 effect you?

     

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