All this talk about weather, and not enough about safety!

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!

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Damaging Earthquakes

Several earthquakes have been occurring all over the world recently. In the past two or so years, there has been devastating damage due to earthquakes in Chile, Japan, Haiti, and New Zealand. After blogging about the 2009 Sydney dust storm, I decided to do some research on the New Zealand earthquake that occurred last March. The earthquake struck Christchurch, NZ where I began my 9-day tour over my Australian spring break. I was comparing my pictures of the city from when I was there to what it looks like now. It makes me sad to see such a beautiful city be destroyed.

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As you can see from the photos I posted, there was significant damage to Christchurch. According to Te Ara: The 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, on the afternoon of February 22, 2011, Christchurch was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, leaving more than 180 killed and several thousand with injuries. It is said that the major earthquake was an aftershock of the September 4, 2010 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The website also says the damage to the city could take up to10 years to repair.

A few nights ago, there were three different earthquakes in a 60-minute timespan. The first earthquake was off the coast of New Zealand and had a striking 6.0 magnitude. Seven minutes later, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Japan. The final earthquake occurred less than 45 minutes later. It was a 6.0 magnitude off the coast of Cuba (OzarksFirst).

Following this strange pattern, earthquakes have occurred in Alaska, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and many other places. USGS: Science for a Changing World stated the most recent damaging earthquake was in Sikkim, India – a severe 6.9 magnitude earthquake (you can check this website out for the most recent earthquakes worldwide).

This earthquake has succeeded a death toll past 50 and at least 150 people suffering in area hospitals. According to the Los Angeles Times,
“reports suggested at least 42 people were killed in India and a total of 12 dead in Nepal and Tibet. The Sikkim government said it would provide $11,000 to the families of the deceased and $550 to those who suffered minor injuries.” This is a tragic event, and we can only hope people will continue to donate and help the people of India just like many did for the major Haiti and Japan earthquake disasters.

It is hard to decipher what to do in an earthquake. Usually there is no watch or warning and no real way to predict one is coming. It is important to have a plan for when an earthquake strikes. Find a safe place inside and outside, preferably not surrounded by windows or anything that can break. For more information on earthquakes and how to prepare for them, visit FEMA’s website.