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Superstorm Sandy October 30, 2012

Posted by vpillmore in Beach, Blizzard, Hurricane Sandy, Severe, Superstorm Sandy, Tropical Storm, Uncategorized, Weather, Wind.
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When the news came out that Hurricane Sandy was going to be historic, many didn’t believe the meteorologists. People, including my own friends and family, said the Weather Channel was just building up this storm too much. I, however, knew this storm was going to be epic. I followed the Weather Channel every minute of the day that I could. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d check for updates, just to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. When the Sandy made landfall, it got very hard to keep up with the news..only because most of it was so devastating. The storm was and still is going strong, but the damage it has brought to Cuba, Jamaica, Bermuda and the United States’ east coast was unbelievable.

My friend Jamie is just as obsessed with the weather as I am. Each hour we were giving each other updates on what we heard or experienced with the storm. We also made sure we kept in touch with our friends in the New York City area to be sure they were taking the proper precautions of the storm and most importantly, to reassure them to take this storm seriously.

I knew the storm was going to be terrifying because another one of my friends, Laci, told me about the wind and flooding going on around her condo in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The most important part about this was that the storm did not even make landfall at this point, but it was still causing damaging winds and flooding to surrounding areas. Laci sent me a couple photos of the flooding that was STILL occurring after the storm had passed Florida and made its way to the North Carolina coast. That was when I realized how massive this storm really was.

flooding in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Once Sandy made it to the North Carolina coast, my boyfriend Ryan and I immediately decided to drive to Wrightsville Beach to experience the epic storm. While the storm was not at full potential yet, the winds and waves were still very intense. I walked on the beach for about five minutes before I was completely drenched and full of sand. Again, this is when the storm was not even close to shore yet nor at its full potential.

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My day was made when I put my photos up on Instagram and added the hashtag #iWitnessWeather and received a ‘like’ from the Weather Channel. I had been trying to get their attention for so long – it was awesome to feel noticed for my work! :)

At first I was upset I was not at my home in Rome, NY to experience this massive hurricane, but I quickly changed my mind once Jamie had sent me a video of the waves hitting the coast of Rhode Island. At that point, there were wind gusts of 86 mph were recorded -BEFORE the storm made landfall! It also had 18-24 hours until the storm was going to hit land.

Meteorologists were unsure of where it would actually arrive on land, they were thinking right around New Jersey and Delaware. But when early evening hit on Monday, Sandy made landfall right off of the New Jersey coast.

What many people forget about this storm was that it collided with an arctic storm, causing winter storm warnings in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and parts of western North  Carolina. So we had a mix of snow, rain, wind, thunderstorms, and much more that became components of Sandy.

So many disasters occurred Monday evening. It made it hard to watch the Weather Channel and the news: learning about the dangling crane, injuries and deaths, the power outage at the NYU hospital that forced patients to evacuate, flooded subway stations and the Breezy Point fire – and that is just some of the news. Before I went to bed, about 1 million people were without power. When I woke up, nearly 6.5 million people were without power. Less than an hour later, over 8 million people were without power. This is twice the amount of power outages compared to Hurricane Irene, which destroyed the east coast last October.

The scary part about today is, Sandy is still not over.

All this talk about weather, and not enough about safety! September 28, 2011

Posted by vpillmore in Blizzard, Earthquake, FEMA, Flood, Severe, Thunderstorm, Tornado, Weather.
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In my previous posts, I have talked a little about weather safety tips but not enough. It is surprising to me when I talk to people and they do not know or understand the safety precautions to take when severe weather hits their local area. Extreme weather can happen anywhere at any given moment, and it is important to be prepared. This post will give you some safety tips for the most common severe weather trends.

First off, it is important to know the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means it is possible for the event to happen in your area. A warning means this event IT IS going to hit your area.  For example, a severe thunderstorm watch means there is a possibly a storm may occur; but if the warning comes out then you will definitely be seeing this storm.

Severe Thunderstorm. If a severe thunderstorm is in your area…

  • Stay inside, preferably a room with little to no windows. It is important to stay away from windows because lightning can strike and go through the glass. Also, if there are high wind gusts a window can break and hurt you.
  • Try not to travel. With possible high wind gusts, hail and flooding, you can get injured.
  • If you are stuck outside, try to find shelter. STAY AWAY FROM TREES. Trees are known for being struck by lightning and falling over. Try to find a building or tunnel.
  • Always have a few flashlights with functioning batteries in your home incase an unexpected storm comes and the power goes out. Try to have candles and matches as well just incase something goes wrong with the flashlights. If the power does go out, do not open the refrigerator  unless necessary. By opening the fridge, you are allowing the cold air to get out and your food will go bad.
  • Do not use the phone, take a shower, or anything else that uses gas or electricity.

Tornado. If a tornado is in your area…

  • Follow the same exact instructions as above.
  • Seek shelter IMMEDIATELY.
  • Go to your basement or storm cellar. If you do not have one, get to the lowest elevation possible.
  • If you are stuck outside, try to find a ditch. A tornado will most likely go right over it and not hurt you. But it is obviously better to be inside.
  • If you live in an area where tornadoes are constant (i.e. My sister lives in Tennessee and they have almost nonstop tornadoes in the summer), be prepared ahead of time. Get extra food and water to keep you and your family healthy incase you go a long time without power.
  • Listen to radio news updates.

Below is a YouTube video I found from the deadly Joplin, Missouri tornado (May 2011).

Tropical Storm and/or Hurricane. If either of these are in your area…

  • Secure your home. Try to board windows and doors before the storm comes.
  • If you have a boat or floatation device, try to prepare that before the storm comes. This can help you get around incase it is necessary for you to leave your home.
  • Shut your electricity and gas off in your home.
  • If possible do your best to evacuate before the storm, otherwise you may never leave.
  • Listen to radio news updates.

Extreme, Excessive Heat. If you are stuck in high temperatures…

  • STAY HYDRATED. This is the most important. Heat can do a lot of damage to your body. If you are hydrated you can save yourself some health problems.
  • Avoid eating hot foods, such as soup. This will increase your body temperature.
  • Stay inside on the lowest floor. Heat rises, so the higher in the building or house you are, the warmer it will be.
  • If you have to be outside, wear thin clothing and less layers. A good example would be a thin tank top and thin gym shorts. Also, do not wear dark clothing. Dark colors attract the sun more and will bring more heat to your body.

Severe Winter Conditions/Blizzard. If you severe winter conditions are in your area…

  • Stay inside and keep warm. If you know a storm is coming, try to get as much food and water as you can before it hits. Many winter storms can produce several feet of snow, which can trap you in your home.
  • Eat warm foods, such as soup – or drink some hot chocolate.
  • If you are stuck outside, cover your mouth and keep dry. Being wet will make you more cold, making you more prone to hypothermia. Be sure to look for signs of frostbite and hypothermia constantly. If you are with someone you can stay warm by putting your body skin on each other.

    A photo from the 2006 "October Surprise" snow storm in Buffalo, NY.

To read safety procedures for floods and earthquakes, check out my previous blog posts. For more tips on each of the above weather trends log on to the FEMA: Disasters & Maps website. Here you can read about all the types of disasters and learn what to do before, during and after they occur.

Have a disaster story? Feel free to share!

Irene makes landfall: Flooding and Safety September 11, 2011

Posted by vpillmore in FEMA, Flood, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm, Weather.
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As Category 2 Hurricane Irene leaves the East Coast of the United States in shambles, another tropical storm decided to join in on the damage.

Hurricane Irene began on the coast of North Carolina, first striking the Outer Banks. It continued up the East Coast, leaving over 4 million people in the United States without power and 46 deaths in 13 states. This storm was underestimated by, especially those in parts of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. Many believed “yeah right, a hurricane hitting us?” – well it did, and it hit hard.

Road closed due to flooding in South Old Bridge, New Jersey. Photo taken by Gillian Shaw.

After Irene finished up destroying the East Coast, Tropical Storm Lee hit the Gulf Coast. Many in New Orleans were without power, nearly 4,000 to be exact – but nowhere as close as the power outages during Irene. Lee weakened to a Tropical Depression after a couple of days, and although it is no longer a tropical threat, remnants of the storm remain. There are flood watches and warnings all over the northeastern United States. Most already have major flooding issues.

The problem with floods is that sometimes people do not know the necessary “terms,” such as the difference between a “flood watch” and “flood warning.” FEMA  illustrates both of these on their website; check out Flood: Know Your Terms. Also, many people do not know what safety precautions to take before, during and after a flood, so here are a few safety tips presented below.

FEMA – BEFORE A FLOOD:

To prepare for a flood, you should:

  • Avoid building in a floodprone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.

FEMA – DURING A FLOOD:

If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
FEMA – AFTER A FLOOD:

The following are guidelines for the period following a flood:

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.

Please take these safety precautions seriously if you are in a place where there is a flood. Not only can you save your own life, but you can save the lives of many others by learning how to prepare for a flood. Also, if you had an experience from this storm feel free to share your story with great detail and photographs! To read the full safety precautions for before, during and after floods visit FEMA’s website section on floods.

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