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Tornadoes

Hurricane Season, Again!

Hurricane season is here! And a Hurricane is heading towards the US as I write. Hurricane Isaac is expected to make its way into the Gulf of Mexico and send rain, winds and high surf up the West Coast of Florida, the Florida pan-handle and the Alabama coast. Depending on how long the storm is over the warm Gulf waters, the storm could increase in intensity before landfall. So now is the time to get ready!

And are you prepared? Just what does “prepared” mean when we talk about hurricanes and other severe weather during the summer and early fall? Can we truly prepare for a disaster? Well, yes we can and it is that preparation that often makes a difference in how we survive the storm and then cope the following days.

Severe storms come in different forms all over the world. From Hurricanes to Tornadoes to Severe Thunder Storms to Ice Storms and Blizzards, severe weather affects everyone at some time in the year. And let us not forget wild fires and forest fires along with earthquakes. All of these are catalysts for changes in our behavior and lifestyle for a few days to months. How well you are prepared for these changes ahead of time affects how well you manage after the event.

Every Severe Weather Event is different.Having been through 4 Hurricanes in a row, each 3 weeks apart, in 2004, I can tell you from experience that each storm was very different.Starting with Charley, who banged on my home with 100+ MPH winds for over 30 minutes and dumped more rain than I can imagine in the two days of him being around the state. Each storm hit from a different direction, bring winds at different speeds and angles, hitting the house. Rain came in at unusual places, like down drainpipes and air vents.

I was not as prepared as I should have been, but I had the basics down even then:

My vehicle was fueled and ready to roll should I have to evacuate. Back into your garage so exiting will be easier should you need to leave.

I had cat carriers ready for the trip along with cat food, litter and their Vet papers.

My important papers were together in a water proof box in my safe place (interior powder room on the ground floor).

Food and water were ready as were clothing should we need to move quickly.  Protein Shakes, snack bars, peanut butter, crackers, apples, bananas and utensils were packed. I also had cleaning supplies in small quantities.

I even had plastic buckets for putting the furniture up high off the floor should flooding become an issue. Soft goods were moved to the top floor in plastic Space Bags when possible.

Doors and windows were covered as much as I could by myself, and the garage door was secured and braced.

I had a portable battery operated TV (now useless since the Digital Revolution has taken over, so much for progress!) along with flash lights and extra batteries. Now I even have a wind-up radio with weather band and AM/FM channels.

Cell phones were charged since you can text if voice is down.  Have a car charger too, just in case the power is off for more than a few days.  Solar charges are great to have, more expensive, but very useful in an emergency.

NOAA radios are a must. You need to know the changes in the path of the storm, since they do wobble around, not on a straight path.

Have tarps, plastic sheeting, ropes, duck tape, hammer and nails, ladder and anything else that might help you secure your home after the storm has passed. Be Careful.

So my main message is to be prepared for those coming storms whether they are cold weather or hot weather storms, fires or earthquakes. It takes a few hours each year to update your food and water supply, refresh your clothing, add paperwork as necessary and refresh your plan!

Be Smart: Get ready and be safe. You can survive if you think and act ahead of the storm.

Are you Prepared?

My last post was about being prepared for power outages, severe storms and earthquakes, etc.  Living in the South, we are bombarded with tornadoes, severe thunderstorms with straight-line winds along with hurricanes!  We even have ice storms and snow storms some winters, so even then we are not safe from interruptions in our daily routines.

Being ready for such an event physically as well as emotionally takes preparation.  In the calm of a pretty day, you have to think about what you will need when the power goes out for a length of time.  When hurricanes and tornadoes knock out power, the need for normalcy becomes acute.  It is then we realize how much we rely on flipping that switch for everything we do.  Our cell phones, iPads, tablets, microwaves, refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners/heaters are all powered by electricity.  Unless you are lucky enough to have a gas stove and a gas fire starter in your fireplace, you will have a hard time cooking and staying warm.

All of our communication tools need cell towers to work, and these have been known to have issues when there are storms.  Wind, hail, ice and lightening can damage or destroy cell towers and power lines.  Some events even take out gas lines!  Oh my.  So how are you going to feed your family, keep them warm or cool,  keep them hydrated,  calm their fears?

Now is the time to get ready.  To power your cell phones, iPads, tablets and such, there are portable solar chargers on the market that allow you to use the power of the sun to charge your laptops, cell phones, tablets and more.  Since the power grid may be down for days or even weeks, the ability to keep these items charged and useful is important.  The internet connection may be down, but the information you have downloaded can be accessed.  There are many solar chargers on the market and TreeHugger.com has an informative article on several options.  Use this link for more information.

After the event, trips to the local grocery store may not be possible.  Stock up your special cupboard with boxes of toilet tissue, paper towels and napkins in water proof bins.  Remove the toilet tissue rolls from the outside plastic and  press them flat, making the center roll as flat as possible.  This way you can fit more rolls into the bin, and when you need to add one to the spindle in the bathroom, the center roll will pop back in to shape.  Same with paper towels.  Just make certain your bin is water proof since you might have to contend with rain and high moisture for a while.

Space Bags work well for keeping paper, clothing, blankets, pillows and such dry and clean. I use them for travel as well as in my home for  linen storage.  Putting down comforters, blankets and extra pillows in a Space Bag makes more room in the linen closet, keeps bugs and dirt out as well as moisture.  So make a small investment in some Space Bags  for emergency storage options.  You will need to make the most of the storage area you choose.  Now with new technology, you can use a vacuum or roll the Space Bags to eliminate the air!   Use this link to find out more.

Don’t forget the pets in your family.  Put away some bedding for them to use when the event happens.  They will need to be warm, safe and dry too.  Rotate their food supply since dry food can get rancid if kept too long so keep fresh food in the bins for them. Don’t forget cat litter.  My kitties are spoiled, liking wet food for dinner and dry food during the day, so my closet is full of their stuff!

Now that I have given you a few ideas, sit and make your own personalized list of things to put into your safe place.  Being ready for the possibility of a catastrophic event makes the reality of the event less horrible.  Having medicines, foods, water and shelter options makes all the difference!  Tents, tarps, tools, camp stoves, candles, wind-up lights and radios, solar powered options and so much more.  The list is yours to make and even more important, yours to fulfill!  Stay well and be safe.

 

 

Helmets–The New Tornado Accessory

The newest accessory for Tornadoes seems to be Helmets!  I have been talking about severe storm safety for years, being prepared for a weather event, earthquake or fire seems prudent.  I have talked about having clothing, food, water, sleeping gear, medications, flashlights, candles, fuel for stoves, food & medications for you pets, cash on hand, important papers in fire-proof boxes or safety deposit boxes and so much more.

But in all that time using a helmet to keep your head safe never came to mind.  I never played sports, so I have not used a helmet.  When I was a child, we rode bikes without helmets, played at recess without helmets and still lived through our child hood.  But now there has been more and more evidence that wearing a helmet during a tornado can save your life!  Wow.

Seems that most deaths or serious injuries occur when falling, flying debris hits your head.  We are told to go to the basement if we have one or an inside room with no windows.  But even being in our safest place, the house around us can come apart and debris starts flying.  We had graphic evidence of the dangers of flying debris in the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.  So many people died from head injuries.

So get a helmet for everyone in the family.  Bike, baseball, motorcycle, football, whatever.  Put it in your safe place and wear it during any severe storm.  It is the latest fashion accessory for surviving a storm!  Be safe and smart.  You may feel “stupid” while wearing a helmet in your safe place, but “stupid” is better than dumb and dead.  Stay well and safe!

Surviving The Tornadoes of April 27th 2011

The first tornadoes struck early Wednesday morning, April 27, 2011, followed by another round Wednesday evening. It was 2 days of tension as we were looking for bad weather on Tuesday, but it waited until Wednesday morning for those of us in the Birmingham AL area.

The tornado sirens sounded about 5:20am for us, jarring us out of bed in the early morning darkness. After a quick look at the local TV station we realized we had about 45 minutes before it was on us. Took a quick shower, dressed, and carried down my emergency items to the powder room on the ground floor. We do not have a basement, although we considered digging one quickly later in the day.

I have posted many times about being prepared for storms, spring storms like tornadoes, summer storms like hurricanes and winter storms that bring ice and banks of snow higher than I can imagine. Snow is why I live in the South. Tornadoes are why I wish there was a safer place in the South to live!

Being prepared for the storms that come our way is usually not too hard. Just make certain you have a wind-up radio, wind-radio, food for several days for myself and the kitties, water, even some hot water stored in a thermos, medicines, first aid kit, clothes, candles, matches in a dry place like a Tupperware container and a few blankets with pillows for me and the kitties. Well, you know the kittes are going to take possession of the blankets and pillows.

But these storms on April 27th were different from past storms. These storms packed winds of up to 200mph. Now I had lived through hurricane Charlie (and the 3 following hurricanes) when it hit the Walt Disney World area in 2004. I saw the trees down, the houses destroyed, the roofs removed or damaged as was mine, the power off, the houses flooded because the roof lifted and the contents of the house were exposed to the relentless rain of the hurricane, pounding at strange angles.

At that time I was in my little house when the slanted A-frame roof groaned and creaked like a ship in the storm. I witnessed the metal garage door panels separating in the continued onslaught of 100mph winds. The cat door between the garage and the house stayed open for ½ an hour or more, gently bobbing up and down but never really closing. I prayed in the powder room on the ground floor, holding my kitties and keeping an eye of the battery powered TV/radio I had with the 9 inch screen. Could not see much on that tiny black & white picture, but I knew it was not good. Finally the winds died down and the main part of the storm passed on to other parts of FL.

Power was out, for about 24 hours total. I lived near 2 hospitals and that was providential for getting power back on. But I also lived in a community where our oak trees were trimmed each year to remove excess weight. We did not lose a tree in the 4 storms. We also lived in houses that were 20+ years old with wooden siding. Some lost a few boards, we all lost some shingles on our roofs, but all was well. However, the newer houses in the adjacent neighborhoods with the vinyl siding were naked when the sun came up.

100mph winds can do amazing damage. But 200mph winds do unbelievable damage. Even looking at the pictures just does not give you a true perspective on the damage or the horror that the people of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia lived through last Wednesday.

For us, the storms went all around us. Not a good feeling when a local weather man calls out the name of the highway you live off of as the path of a tornado! We had one storm pass just over the mountain from our home. The trees at the top of the mountain swayed and the wind sounded like those ominous “trains” that everyone refers to when talking about tornados. Debris was flying about here, but it was mainly leaves for us. The 7 or 8 storms that were on the weather map in our area at one time missed us, thankfully. Prayers were answered. But we have family who were not so lucky.

I can only image the terror they felt when their homes, their place of security and comfort blew apart around them. The home that they rejoiced in, the home where they fed family and friends, the home where they mourned for friends and family, the home where they saw their children grow up, all blown to bits in a matter of seconds.

Now these folks are looking at a pile of rubble. Some were at work when the storm hit. They have been back to their homes, their neighborhoods and could not even find their lot. Nothing looked recognizable to them. All the normal landmarks are gone.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine coming home to find the trees, gardens, swing sets, storage sheds, garages, street signs and such are not all gone? It is like being dropped in a war zone. The landscape is alien, trees stripped of limbs, leaves, while what is left is twisted, contorted into bizarre shapes. Neighbors are bruised, battered or worse yet, dead.

Vehicles are flipped over, crushed by trees or parts of houses. Power poles are down, wires are all over the place, some still live and others not. Dangerous. The boards that litter the yard are filled with nails, screws and splinters. There is no safe place to be, no clean place to sit and have a meal, no bathroom to shower, no toilet to use, no faucet to give water. Cell towers are down so no communications can get through. Nothing is normal.

Whole towns are gone. Homes, businesses, churches, schools, theaters, professional buildings for Doctors, accountants, restaurants, fast food joints, donut shops, bait shops, lawyers, fire stations, police departments. All damaged or gone. Wiped off the face to this earth. A concrete slab with pipe stubs marks buildings with no reference as to what they used to be.

Not only are homes gone. But jobs are gone. Medical care is displaced or gone. Resources that normally help in times of small crisis are having a big crisis themselves.

Now the arduous task of putting their lives back together has begun. They have to bury their dead. Some have to locate family and friends still missing. Some will be rewarded with good news and will rejoice. Others will not be so blessed and tears of mourning will flow.

Every time they need something it is not there. All that is around them at “home” now is rubble. Paper, books, shingles, boards and such flew in the tornado and landed miles from their original homes. So you look in your yard and there are checks form a lady in a town 60 miles away who went to the Piggly Wiggly (grocery store) in 1992 and spent a few dollars on food! Bizarre.

I have experienced the numbing task for burying 3 of my immediate family members one fine May day several years ago, after they were killed in an auto accident by an 18 yr old who lost control speeding. I know how impossible that is to get through the sudden deaths of family and friends. But add on top of that immense sadness the loss of homes and everything else you used to own, and see how that feels. It is a level of pain of high magnitude.

So how can we move on from this assault on our bodies, souls, minds, property and emotions? What can we do to make a step forward when we feel like we weight a thousand pounds and cannot possibly take a step in any direction? All we want to do it get our lives back to the way it was before Wednesday. And of course that will never be.

We will never know the sound of that home again in the same way. We will never hear the laughter of our dead friends and family. The swing set will never squeak in its own peculiar way again. The bar-b-que grill is in pieces scattered over 3 counties and will never be the site of family get togethers. How can we possibly move forward?

It is not easy. These survivors will make the slow process of moving forward inch by inch, day by day. Since they are alive, their grief will come in unexpected places. They will absentmindedly reach for something only to realize that it is forever gone. They will reach for the phone to call someone only to be reminded that that person is dead. Sadness will grip them in unusual places at unusual times. But slowly, they will heal.

Their homes and lives will be rebuilt. They will form new communities with different people, different values and different goals. The survivors will move to new places, stay in the same area or leave the state entirely. Change has happened and the final place to start again will be part of the process.

Right now the immediate need is for shelter and comfort, food, clothing and a sense of safety. The survivors will find bits of their lives and pack them away in boxes for use later in their new homes. Their memories will be their touchstones for what has happened. The things of their lives will change, they will change and they will being again.

The slate is blank for them now. They can create their own future based on what their past was, or not. Moving forward can take them in different directions and only God knows what he has in store for them. New paths, new directions, new talents maybe. New passions, new skills forged from the newness of the raw earth. It is a time of renewal, it is a time of rediscovery and of forging new identities. Old habits can be laid aside easier since the stimulus is no longer there.

We are lucky in the Birmingham area to have many resources coming to help with aid and comfort. Churches, Red Cross, Salvation Army, private individuals, Television and Radio stations doing all day coverage linking people and needs together as well as fundraising. People looking for lost pets, people looking for the dead, people looking for the survivors who have not connected with loved ones.

The pet people are my favorites. I cannot imagine the terror of having my kittes separated from me in the storm. To know that there are folks out looking for, recovering, treating injuries, feeding and caring for the pets warms my heart. I re-post on facebook when I can so others can see the need and help match owners with found pets. What a wonderful reward after such a tragic event.

So the next time I post something about being prepared for a coming storm, listen and take heed. Gather your precious things around you whether they be people, pets or things and be ready for action when the house explodes around you. Have a plan. Know who to call. Know what is really important to you and let go of the rest. For in the end, your family, friends and pets are all that really matter. Stuff can be replaced, memories are in your heart, and smiles are on the faces of those you love. Stay well and stay safe!

Hurricane Season is Here! Are You Prepared?

Hurricane season is here! Wow, its back. And are you prepared? Just what does “prepared” mean when we talk about hurricanes and other severe weather during the summer and early fall? Can we truly prepare for a disaster? Well, yes we can and it is that preparation that often makes a difference in how we survive the storm and then cope the following days.

Having lived through Hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan then Jeanne, two Category 4’s and two Category 3’s, I have experience with bad storms. Taffy, Hawker and I managed to survive 100 mph winds and amazing rain pounding our home during charley-200x200-vis-tCharley, followed in 3 weeks by Francis, then 3 weeks later when Ivan made his double passes over our home, then Jeanne finished the parade! 2004 was a year of learning for me. Cats don’t like storms any more than I.

Over the next few posts we will explore some basic steps to take to be proactive in storm preparedness. Of course, not everyone has contact with hurricanes. However, each area has violent weather to consider: tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes( I know this is not weather!), forest/wild fires, floods, lake effect snows and ice storms. None of these are fun or easy to endure.

It is stressful when a Hurricane approaches. The local news has constant updates and predictions on the path of the storm, strength and such. This goes on for DAYS before the storm hits land. But during this time your stress level goes way up! To reduce the stress, make your plan and get ready for the storm. Taking action gives you options when the storm hits. You are more likely to make good decisions during the event if you have planned ahead of time.

So the first step is taking a good look at yourself and your family. What are your everyday needs? Do you have pets or large animals? Do you need medical equipment daily/weekly such as dialysis? Do you have medications that are taken daily/weekly? Is your home in a flood plain? Is there lawn furniture, hanging flower baskets, fountains or children’s play things outside the home? Do you have a well? Do you have a generator? Are your important papers in one secure place? Where will you go should you have to evacuate at the last minute? Is your car ready for a trip in crowded road conditions and heavy rain? What about extended family or older neighbors without close family?

There is much More to come!  Start your preparations now! Safety is paramount.

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