Category Archives: Disasters

Florence’s Floods

Hurricane Florence is nearing the coast of North Carolina, and should make landfall overnight. While Florence is far from the strongest storm we’ve seen in recent years, it nonetheless will bring many of the same risks that hurricanes bring – a massive storm surge along coastal areas, and strong winds over 100 mph are possible even inland. But the main threat from Florence will be catastrophic flooding.

Almost all of North Carolina will see at least 5 inches of rain from this storm. But, the eastern half of the state will most likely receive more than 10 inches, with many areas, particularly along the coast, seeing between 15 and 30 inches of rain! This is due to the expected slow nature of the movement of the storm, once it nears the coastline. The circulation is expected to meander southwest for a couple of days, before turning north.

Preparations for the storm should be finalized today, and anyone in flood-prone areas should be evacuating.

Florence and the Tropical Machine

The tropical Atlantic has moved into high gear this September with two current active hurricanes, and one tropical storm. The main story is Hurricane Florence, however, with a landfall in North Carolina late Thursday now looking likely. The track following landfall is still quite uncertain, with a good chance that the storm could linger over the Carolinas or Virginia for at least a day or two. This could bring catastrophic flooding to that area, along with whatever damage could come with wind and coastal storm surge.

Hurricane Lane, and Interesting Images

Hurricane in Hawaii

Hurricane Lane, while not making landfall directly on Hawaii, has certainly made a huge impact on the state with extraordinarily heavy rains and catastrophic flooding. Some areas of the island of Hawaii have received nearly 40 inches of rain, and mudslides have occurred in a number of locations. Tropical storm force winds have also affected several islands.

Although the storm’s effects have been significant, as can be seen in this story from weather.com, because the hurricane weakened as it approached Hawaii, the state was spared greater devastation and loss of life.

What’s in our air?

NASA’s Earth Observatory released pictures yesterday depicting some of what we are breathing in every day. From carbon in smoke from fires, to sea salt to dust and sand, there are many elements to our air than just air. It is a fascinating look at the different elements that arise, both naturally and unnaturally from events on the land and sea that influence the air we breathe and have impacts on health.

View the pictures at https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92654/just-another-day-on-aerosol-earth.

US Hurricane Relief

No electrical power for light, air conditioning, refrigeration, and other daily needs. Fresh water is scarce. People are scrounging to find food and fuel. This is not the scene of some apocalyptic movie or a description of a developing country. This is happening in the United States, right now, in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And there are still areas without power in Florida as well. Additionally, the recovery from flooding in the Houston area is continuing and it will take months or longer to fully rebuild the damaged areas.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have caused incredible devastation. Maria is actually still active and may threaten the US east coast this week. The death toll from these three storms is over 200, and countless others have lost their homes and have had their lives totally disrupted. These hurricanes have created health and humanitarian disasters right within our borders, and the people affected are in need of help.

Although many people need goods that were lost, at this point, money is most in need so that organizations in the areas can operate at full strength. Goods also cost money to ship, an issue that is even more difficult in Puerto Rico due to the Jones Act which requires American ships to deliver supplies.

What are some ways you can help? There are some well known international charities, but I’ve chosen 5 below that are ready to help right now and that you might not know about.

  1. ASPCA: aspca.org: Animals are often forgotten when natural disasters strike, but are often just as in need of assistance.
  2. United for Puerto Rico: unidosporpuertorico.com/en: This charity was recently established by the First Lady of Puerto Rico and already has many established sponsors working on the ground there to provide aid and support.
  3. US Virgin Islands Recovery: usvirecovery.org: Many people are unaware of, or have quickly forgotten, the damage done to the US Virgin Islands by Irma and Maria. This charity is focusing its efforts there.
  4. Direct Relief: directrelief.org: Direct Relief is a non-governmental, non-religious humanitarian aid organization with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies.
  5. GlobalGiving: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-maria-caribbean-relief-fund: GlobalGiving is a crowdfunding community which helps nonprofits all over the world access the tools, training, and support they need to be more effective and make our world a better place.

I hope you take the time and make the commitment to help fellow citizens in need.

Preparing for a Hurricane

Living as I do in New Jersey, I rarely have found myself in the direct path of a hurricane. But in 2011 and 2012, New Jersey was hit in back-to-back years by landfalling hurricanes. Irene in 2011 was not nearly as disastrous as Sandy was in 2012. And, of course, Sandy was not technically a hurricane when it made landfall, according to the National Weather Service. Thankfully, in both cases, we had enough time to prepare for the storm ahead of time, in order to keep safe. Hurricane prediction has progressed to the point where most areas usually have a few days of preparation time. So, how do you prepare for a hurricane that is on its way in order to keep you and your loved ones safe?

First, be aware. What is the expected track of the storm? What effects are likely for your area, and when are those expected to arrive? There are a number of places to go for this information, and I detailed three sites in my last post for you to visit.

Second, gather needed supplies. Fill your car’s gas tank. If you will be sheltering in your home throughout the storm, be sure to have supplies for at least three days, if not as much as a week. You may be without power or water for a few days, and you will need food, water, medicine and other supplies. A good rule of thumb for water is one gallon per person per day. You may be able to get by with a little less, but not much less, and you will want to be sure it is safe water, preferably bottled. You may want to fill a bathtub with water just in case. You want to have dry foods you can eat without cooking, including some fresh fruit if possible. Have enough medicine for at least a week. You also should have a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, a flashlight, and a basic first aid kit. If you plan to evacuate, be sure to gather your supplies in a safe durable bag.

Third, comply with any evacuation orders if they are given. Once the storm hits, and especially when the effects of the storm are at their most severe, you may not be able to call for and receive help if you need it. And if you do need help, you will put emergency responders in harm’s way coming to help you. Although you may have lived through previous hurricanes, if you are told to leave, leave. And unless you are strictly forbidden from doing so by where you are going, be sure to bring your pets, and food for them.

Fourth, prepare your home. If you have the time to do so before the storm or any evacuation, be sure to remove any loose objects from around your home that could become projectiles during the storm. Lawn furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, and other loose items should be brought into the home. You should probably make an effort to remove any loose or unsafe tree branches that could break or fly during the storm as well. If hurricane force winds are expected in your area, you might want to board up your windows with plywood, and, if you have a generator, be sure you have fuel for it and that it is in proper working order.

While the storm is underway, stay indoors and away from windows. There may be periods where the storms severe rain and wind bands ebb for a while, but it is probably not safe to travel during these times, as they could change quickly. You could also find yourself trapped by downed trees and power lines if you do venture out. Of course if you find yourself in a flooded area, try to get to higher ground as soon as possible.

This is just a partial list of things to do, and there are many places to go online for more information:

Keeping Aware of Hurricanes

We’ve all witnessed the terrible devastation brought on by the flooding rains of Hurricane Harvey. As the remnants of Harvey are about to move off the eastern coast of the United States today, a new threat looms on the horizon with Hurricane Irma. Irma is a major hurricane with winds of 115 mph as of the morning of September 3, and for now, the forecast track pulls the storm towards a possible US landfall. It is too early to say, for now, if this will play out, but if it does there could again be a swath of destruction.

090317_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

Courtesy of National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at1.shtml?cone#contents

While any impact from Irma is likely a week or more away, the National Weather Service has warned that the rest of this year’s hurricane season is likely to be an active one.

 

Hurricanes pose a grave threat to life and property. On average, these monster storms cause 60 injuries and 17 deaths in the United States per year, although with major storms these numbers can be much higher. At least 45 people have died as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and that number may yet increase.

What can you do to keep yourself and your family safe during hurricane season?

The first and possibly most important thing to do is to simply be aware of what is developing. There are many sources of information about what is going on in the tropics, and if there are storms that are currently posing a threat. Your local TV and radio stations can give you important information, but for larger-scale information, check out these sources:

The National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov: The mission of the National Hurricane Center is “To save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts and analyses of hazardous tropical weather, and by increasing understanding of these hazards.” You can get reliable data about current storms, forecasts, and safety information from the NHC, and can also follow them on Twitter at @nhc_atlantic or on Facebook at @nwsnhc.

Weather Underground: A partner of The Weather Channel, Weather Underground (found at www.wunderground.com) has been in business since 1993 and presents a ton of information about weather including a page on current tropical systems: https://www.wunderground.com/hurricane. They can also be found on Twitter @wunderground, and on Facebook at @wunderground.

Tropical Tidbits: https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/storminfo: There are obviously many other sites you can go to for tropical storm information, but one I love is Tropical Tidbits, which is run by Levi Cowan, a graduate student at Florida State University. There is so much information available there, including computer model data. A great job by Mr. Cowan, and a great place to go for more information on storms.

As we are entering the height of hurricane season, how can you be ready when storms threaten? Tomorrow I will post information about storm preparedness.

Harvey Flooding

Catastrophic rains continue to plague Texas as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey deluge the area.

This image shows the rainfall in just the past 24 hours. An area the size of New Jersey and Delaware combined has received over 12 inches of rain, with some areas already totally flooded.

usa est precip 082617

Unfortunately, the track of the storm over the next few days remains in the same general area.

AL092017_5day_cone_no_line

Over just the next 24 hours alone many of the areas that already received flooding rains are expected to see much more. The map below shows forecast amounts of 4-8″ in the next day.

nam_namer_024_precip_p24

For more information about how you can help Harvey’s victims, visit http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/health/iyw-harvey-how-to-help/index.html, which has links to a number of agencies helping people cope with this disaster.