• 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.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Bombogenesis

  • Staying Fit When It's Cold Outside

    By Beth Buck


    Staying Fit in winter


    You've probably guessed by the title that this blog post will have something to do with exercise. And you're not wrong! It's the New Year, and millions of Americans (including me!) have resolved to lose weight and get healthy. Yet not everyone is successful in their fitness goals, and most people quit going to the gym around February.

    About now is probably when you're asking why I'm writing about gyms and weight loss when I'm supposed to be writing about preparing for disasters. What if I told you that being healthy can also be preparedness? Natural disasters can be physically strenuous, after all, and you want to be prepared for that, right? Not only that, but exercising now can prepare you for good health far into the future.

    I was only twelve when my parents enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do. My mom said at the time, “It's good for you to build up your bone density now, so you'll be less likely to get osteoporosis when you're older.” I haven't gotten osteoporosis yet, so it seems like that was a good strategy. When I'm not writing about food storage and wheat, I am chasing after a houseful of small, unruly children, so I need my stamina and my health to do that effectively. I also want to safeguard my health—by getting in shape and being active now, I'll be much healthier when I'm in my 60s.

    Enough preaching—everyone can agree that exercise is good for you. Doing it, now that's the tricky part. Somewhere along the line most of us have this idea in our heads that exercise is unpleasant, especially when facing a foot of snow outside. But it doesn't have to be that way. It can be simpler than you would think. For some, it could be as easy as finding an activity that you enjoy.

    As an example, I am not overly fond of running, nor do I enjoy most organized sports. That pretty much encapsulates everything that they teach in high school gym class. But I quite like the martial arts, yoga, and, to a lesser degree, weight training. Don't think of yourself as being “unathletic” just because you, too, hated gym in high school.

    Try out a lot of things until you find something that works well for you. If you think you'd do better with accountability and structure of having to go to a separate location, wearing dedicated workout clothing, then a gym membership is probably for you. Gyms are located indoors, which makes going to them a perfect winter activity.

    However, if going to the gym is inconvenient or cost prohibitive, working out in your living room in your pajamas is an acceptable alternative. Most American living rooms are indoors as well—also perfect for cold weather. YouTube has an assortment of workout videos available, from whole channels devoted to yoga to old-school aerobics from the 1980s. Pinterest is full of ideas for short, high-intensity workouts, as well. And of course there is always good, old-fashioned calisthenics to fall back on: push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

    With the wide variety of exercises that can be done comfortably indoors, you don't need to wait until summer time to lose the holiday weight and stay fit.


    If you already have a good winter-months exercise routine, what is it like? Tell us in the comments!


    Beth Buck HeadshotBeth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.



    Disaster_Blog_Banner Staying Fit

  • Winter Survival on the Side of the Road

    5-miles-from-the-north-rim-via-stephen-krieg-photographics Winter Survival 45 miles from the North Rim - Photo via Stephen Krieg Photographics

    A sheriff’s official called it a “Christmas miracle.” On December 23 and 24, rescuers found a family that got stuck and then separated while trying to drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which was closed for the winter.

    The Klein family, of New Jersey, did some winter survival things well to survive their adventure, according to news coverage. They also made some mistakes that could have caused a tragic ending.

    The Kleins were willing to take an alternate route to get to their destination on December 22 when the primary route was closed. That, and the way father Eric Klein and 10-year-old son Isaac spent the night in the car, suggests they had enough fuel in the vehicle.

    “Never let your gas tank get below half,” said AAA Utah spokesperson Rolayne Fairclough. “In winter weather, if you’re detoured, you’ll have some flexibility, and you don’t have to worry about running out of gas.”

    The Forest Service road on which the Klein family got stuck didn’t have cell coverage. So the family agreed to have mother Karen Klein, a marathoner and triathlete who’d had some survival training, walk to the main road and get help. A few hours after she didn’t return, Eric walked the other way and found a high spot with enough cell coverage to call for help. That suggests they kept a cell phone charged.

    “Have a cell phone charger system so you have communications,” Fairclough said.

    “Don’t fail to signal for help, often and vigorously. Fire, smoke, and mirrors are good signals. Having a charged cell phone is a better one. Time is precious in a survival ordeal, so use it wisely to provide for your basic needs and be sure to signal at every opportunity,” wrote Tim MacWelch, a survival instructor, in a story for Outdoor Life.

    Karen Klein told “Good Morning America” she put snow in her cheek to keep hydrated.  At least she didn’t swallow it frozen.

    “Don’t eat ice or snow,” MacWelch warned. It can cause hypothermia. MacWelch suggested filling a bottle with snow or ice and putting it close to, but not next to, your skin, so body heat can melt it.

    Karen also stayed awake.

    "I just talked to myself and rocked back to stay warm," she told reporters.

    Car Stuck in Snow off a Road Winter SurvivalEven if you’re in a car, stay awake, especially when the engine is running, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

    If you run the car engine, only run it 15 minutes every hour and keep the tailpipe clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, keep windows cracked to avoid running out of oxygen.

    Karen Klein admitted they could have avoided this ordeal if they’d planned better.

    "As far as places being closed, we just didn't realize that these roads were closed and these visitor centers were closed," she told NBC News. "We didn't investigate that deeply."

    The main road to the North Rim, State Route 67, was closed.

    "Google Maps shows there's a way -- but it's impassable," Jim Driscoll, chief deputy for Coconino County, told the Associated Press, adding, "This is a problem we've had numerous times."

    During winter travel, stay on main roads, urges

    “Avoid back road shortcuts,” the site urges. Tell someone where you’re going, your route, and expected arrival time.

    “If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route,” said.

    Stay near your car Winter Survival

    When you’re stranded, stay close to your vehicle. The North Dakota Department of Transportation even suggests if you need to leave your vehicle, tie yourself to it with rope.

    Karen told NBC News she set out with only Cheerios to eat.

    Make sure you’ve got an emergency kit, Fairclough said.

    Keep cold weather gear like blankets or a sleeping bag, boots, a coat and gloves in the car, she said. Aluminum “space blankets” can fit in a glove compartment.

    Bring a power source for cell phones, a radio and a flashlight with extra batteries.

    Believe it or not, a candle can heat a whole car’s cabin, she said. Keep matches too, because extreme cold can freeze some lighters.

    Add water and high-energy food like candy, raisins, nuts, dehydrated and freeze-dried fruit, and jerky. Remember toilet paper.

    Finally, take tools and equipment for the car: signaling equipment like bright cloth or flares, chains, booster cables, a nylon rope and a shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction.

    In a pinch, you can use the car’s floor mats for traction, Fairclough said.

    “A lot of people just don’t put a shovel in their cars,” she admitted.

    The Kleins’ trip could have ended in disaster. Coconino County, Ariz., Sheriff Jim Driscoll told the Los Angeles Times that in the last month, three people in the county died from exposure.

    The family did some things right, and emergency responders from many agencies responded quickly. They survived. But their errors could have cost them their lives.

    “It can be a pretty hostile environment,” Driscoll told the Times.


    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 Winter Survival

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