With the imminence of the prime-time Atlantic hurricane season steadily approaching, it’s important to know the weather safety tips as anyone that lives on the coast line could be impacted at any time. While forecasting technology has made great strides since it was first introduced, there’s still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to how you can protect yourself as well as your properties as there’s many impacts which can be introduced by a hurricane. It’s important to know what you can do before hurricane season, when a watch or warning is issued, as well as prior to the time at which a hurricane is projected to make landfall.
Before hurricane season arrives, the first thing to have ready is making sure your home meets building codes for withstanding hurricanes, this also includes storm shutters. These shutters can help protect your home when the strong winds from hurricanes batter your property. Having the proper tools, supplies and first aid kits are also crucial. These tools should include plenty of batteries, flashlights, a battery-powered radio as well as the essentials such as water, non-perishable foods, as well as important documents such as personal identification. Make sure to unclog any drain gutters and downspouts nearby, or on your property to assure that less flooding occurs. A threat to look for if you live on the coast is storm surge. The best way to combat this issue if it were to occur is to have a sump pump ready with battery backup to remove inundating stormwater. Knowing all of the evacuation routes is also key, as many residents will flee via the main highways and roadways. It’s best to get out of harm’s way as soon as possible, as you can get stuck with the clusters of traffic. Unfortunately, some places on the coastline only have one way in and out and making sure you’re prepared as soon as possible is more ideal.
When a watch or warning is issued, it’s important to secure outside objects and bring them indoors, as they can pose a threat to damaging windows when the wind picks up. These objects include lawn furniture, trash cans, garden equipment, clotheslines, as well as hanging plants. After securing these objects, you should then turn off electricity, water and propane gas. With electricity running, it can potentially lead to fire hazards as flooding can occur and run directly into households causing sparks to ignite the flames. With the flooding also comes polluted water which can lead into households if water is left running, even after the hurricane. From there you should protect windows with plywood boards on top of the storm shutters. Using this as double protection is crucial in assuring that the windows don’t blow in. If you own any pets, make sure to pack the essentials such as a drinking and eating bowl, as well as have gallons of water and food for them. If you are called to evacuate, do so. Do not hesitate and wait until last minute as you can get stuck in harm’s way.
When the storm hits, if you decide to hunker down on your property, or asked to shelter in place, make sure stay in a secure innermost room away from windows. The windows have the potential to break, even with them being boarded up and secure. Winds from a hurricane can reach upwards of 157 MPH (252 KM/H) or higher, which can lead to total roof failure and wall collapse. It’s important to know that a lull often indicates the storm’s eye is passing over, and that the storm is not over. When this occurs, you should wait for authorities or local weather radio to announce that the danger has passed, as well as closely monitor announcements via a NOAA or regular radio.
When the hurricane finally passes, it is crucial to monitor local media for emergency information, as well as following instructions from public safety officials. You should always stay away from downed utility wires, as you should assume that the wire is still active. Remember the phrase, “turn around, don’t drown” as you should never drive through flooded roadways. Cars can be swept away in just two feet of moving water. Take photos of damage in all areas of your property to document for insurance. Hire a professional to check on electrical issues, as well as other areas of your home such as the septic tanks. It’s crucial to not wait on fixing these issues, as more problems can arise. Be sure to also check on family, friends, and neighbors. Reach out and give a helping hand to all of those in need, as working together as a team can help mend the wounds, as well as help start the rebuilding process much faster. Hurricanes are something that unfortunately the world cannot control, so it’s important to know all of this to help make the process much easier to deal with, as well as help save lives.
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© 2018 Weather Forecaster Michael Ames
During the summer, the beach is one of the most popular places to visit, and it can also be the most dangerous. The National Weather Service (NWS) lists the hazards and explains how to stay safe at the beach on their website for the public. The hazards listed by the NWS include: dangerous currents, tsunamis, heat, and lightning.
Dangerous currents can be scary and life threatening. Rip currents are fast-moving currents of water that can pull swimmers from the shore. Students at Texas A&M said that if caught in a rip current, don’t fight the current directly – swim a direction that follows the shoreline and then swim back to the shore. Sometimes swimmers cannot escape the current. If then, they should float or tread water until the current stops, then swim back to shore. Sadly, poor swimmers can drown in powerful currents.
An earthquake can cause a tsunami on the shore. It is important for people to know that if the water recedes from the shore, it is a sign of a tsunami. If this happens, everyone must evacuate immediately. Tsunamis are deadly and can come miles in-shore. The wave can be up to 125 miles in length. The National Oceanography Centre states that a tsunami wave’s speed can be calculated by the square root of 9.8 times the water depth. For example, in the deep ocean at 5,000 m this is 221 m per second. This means the wave is moving at about 500 miles per hour in the deep ocean.
Heat can be a hazard at the beach if the proper precaution isn’t taken. The NWS states online that it is always important to wear sunscreen or some kind of protection (a layer of clothes or an umbrella) from the sun while at the beach to decrease the chance of getting sunburn or sun poisoning. Sun poisoning is a severe form of sunburn that can cause blistering, swelling, headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, and dehydration. These are all symptoms that can be avoided if proper precaution is taken before going out in the sun. Also, sand has a high reflectivity of light, which can increase the chance of sunburn/sun poisoning. The higher the reflectivity of the light, the more UV rays are reflected off the surface.
Lastly, lightning is another hazard that people need to be aware of when at the beach. The second greatest cause for lightning fatalities are beach activities, according to the NWS. Thunder is hidden by the sound of waves, making it hard for people to know when a thunderstorm is coming. Also, being on the beach leaves people in a wide-open space making it more likely to get struck by lightning.
Try to keep these tips in mind before going to the beach so you can be prepared for beach hazards. Always being prepared can make any beach trip fun and safe.
Credit: The National Weather Service, The National Oceanography Centre
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Brittany Connelly
How Does Lightning Form? And How to Stay Safe From Getting Struck (Credit: National Weather Service)
Lightning is a fascinating but dangerous weather phenomenon. The odds of getting struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000. The United States records about 25 million lightning strikes per year, and it is typically around this time of the year, during the late spring and summer months, that lightning strikes most frequently occur. Although fatalities caused by lightning have decreased over the past few decades, it continues to be one of the top weather-related killers in the United States.
The formation of a single lightning bolt first begins when the sun heats the air above the ground and pockets of warm air begin to rise into the atmosphere. At a certain level, the warm air cools and condenses into puffy cumulus clouds. As warm air continues to rise, the cloud grows into a “towering” cumulus as it expands vertically into the atmosphere. Once the cloud hits the top of the troposphere (the lowest level of the atmosphere), the top of the cloud starts to take an anvil-like shape showing that the thunderstorms has hit the mature stage.
The updraft of the thunderstorm lifts water droplets from the bottom of the cloud to the top. This is when different types of precipitation will start to form within the thunderstorm. As you increase in height inside the cloud, the temperature becomes cooler and the precipitation will change from liquid droplets to solid particles. Melted hail and rain will be located in the lower levels, a mixture of hail and ice crystals in the mid-levels, and primarily ice crystals in the upper levels.
Air movements inside the storm will cause collisions between the different types of precipitation and this causes the precipitation to take on either a positive charge or a negative charge. Light precipitation, typically the ice crystals at the top of the cloud, will become positively charged. While the heavier-type precipitation, like hail, will take on a negative charge. When both positive and negative charges become too great, it creates a giant spark of electricity inside the cloud forming a lightning bolt.
As most of lightning occurs within the cloud, it can happen where the lightning bolt strikes the Earth’s surface. This is what is called “cloud to ground” lightning. This occurs when a build up of positively charged particles near the ground interacts with the negatively charged particles at the base of the thunderstorm. A connection is make between both particles and a lightning bolt strikes the surface.
Anything on the earth’s surface can become a conductor for lightning; trees, buildings, powerlines, even people. A person can become a conductor for lightning if you are standing in the area with the most positive charged particles. If you happen to be caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, crouch down with your arms on your knees, head between your legs, and the balls of your feet up in the air. This will ensure that a majority of your body is not making contact with the ground.
This is the main reason why meteorologists all over the world push the “when thunder roars, go indoors” statement. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to where you can get struck by lightning. You must seek shelter immediately inside a sturdy building or a car with the windows up. When inside a building, do not use the telephone or any electrical appliances. The wiring of the appliances can act as a conductor when a lightning bolt strikes near the persons location. For more information, click on the link below to be directed to the Lightning Safety page provided by the National Weather Service.
Link: NWS Lightning Safety
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© 2018 Meteorologist Joseph Marino
Discussion: As we move into July and August in the northern hemisphere, temperatures start to climb to their highest peak for the summer. Whether it be southern or northern parts of the United States, humid or dry, daily temperatures are on the rise. For those of you that work and/or exercise outside in the heat, this means that it's time to be extra cautious. This is due to the nature of high temperatures having a negative effect on the body. Overexerting yourself in the heat can pose as a health risk if you are not careful.
During vigorous outdoor work and exercise, the heart works excessively to pump blood throughout your body and deliver oxygen to your muscles. Your core body temperature also increases with any type of strenuous activity. In order to cool itself down, the heart works hard to pump sufficient blood into the skin for cooling. This cooling mechanism is called perspiration, which evaporates off the surface of the skin. High temperatures can also cause excessive sweating which will lead to dehydration. In the case of high temperatures and high humidity conditions, sweat is less likely to evaporate. This causes insufficient cooling of the skin's surface. Insufficient cooling can contribute to increasing core body temperature, bringing it closer to a dangerous temperature level. The threshold for this core temperature is 104℉. Exactly the temperature that is dangerous to exceed when you are ill with a fever. During outdoor exercise in the heat, once the body approaches this temperature, it can suffer from one of the following health issues:
Once the body temperature approaches 104℉, it is critical that a person immediately cease exercising, take sips of water and cool themselves off. A person's core temperature should not reach above 104℉ for they may risk having a heat stroke. This can cause brain damage along with dizziness, confusion, organ failure and possible death.
A study done by Dr. Lawrence Armstrong and Dr. Douglas Casa of the University of Connecticut studied a runner in a controlled high temperature environment. For approximately one hour they examined the runner's body temperature, sweat loss, heart rate and dehydration percentage while they ran on a treadmill in a 90℉ room. After an hour of running, the runner’s core body temperature measured 103℉, almost to the threshold of 104. Other measurements concluded that the runner produced 54 ounces of sweat, their heart rate increased to 175 bpm (beats per minute) and their body was dehydrated by about 2.6%. It was concluded that if the runner had continued their exercise for longer than an hour in the 90℉ heat, they would have suffered heat exhaustion and would have been at high risk of a heat stroke.
This also applies to outdoor workers who spend hours in the sun during the day. Unlike exercise, which can be intense and short, workers spend a longer time out in the heat. Outdoor work often involves exerting the body in some way. This can still cause the body to sweat and increase in temperature. It is important to follow necessary precautions when working or exercising outside in the heat. Here are some tips on what you can do to keep yourself safe from heat related health risks while still working outside and getting your exercise in:
High temperatures increase stress on the heart and body during strenuous work and exercise. It is important during this time of year to be cautious when working or exercising outdoors. Especially for those exercisers that love to be outdoors and hate the gym. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you find yourself feeling weak and fatigued, stop whatever activity you are doing, drink some water, cool yourself down and take it easy.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Alex Maynard
The hot weather brought on by the summer months often results in thousands of people rushing towards the beach to cool off in the water. Although the water provides some much need relief from the hot temperatures, it also holds the potential for dangerous currents. These currents can turn a fun day at the beach into a scary one. Dangerous currents are currents that have speeds greater than 2 feet per second, with some currents having speeds faster than 8 feet per second. These currents can pull people, including strong swimmers such as Olympic swimmers, away from the shore into open water. They occur in most oceans as well as in the North American Great Lakes. It is in the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Michigan, that the greatest number of incidences involving dangerous currents happen, with over 450 current and wave related incidences occurring in the Great Lakes since 2002.