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With Her Car Trapped in Blizzard: It felt like I was underground, buried in a casket

Driving at night in a blizzard, a woman accidentally slid her small car into a snow bank. Then a passing snowplow totally buried her vehicle. She couldn’t open the doors. No one could see her. Trapped, she thought she would die.  Hours ticked by silently. Frantically, she rolled down a window and pushed a snow brush upward. She cleared a space to wave it.  Time and again she waved the brush, paused for a few minutes, and then waved it again hoping someone would see it. After 13 hours, someone finally did.

Every winter, hundreds of people are trapped in their cars by blizzards. Many die alone. Tens of thousands are trapped in homes, apartments or offices with no power.
New England’s blizzard of December 2015 affected 28 million people. In Boston, at least 30,000 people were trapped in homes or offices without heat or electricity for days.
What can you do? Here’s expert advice:

When Trapped in a Vehicle:

  • Always drive with a nearly full gas tank in case road travel slows or you get stranded.
  • Keep a survival kit in your vehicle: Blankets, non-perishable food, water, flashlight with spare batteries, doses of any essential medications, a first aid kit, hand-warmers, whistle, snow shovel, ice scraper and jumper cables.
  • Keep your cell phone charged to call for help, but use minimally to conserve batteries.
  • If stuck in snow, tie something brightly colored to your antenna to signal that you need help. Blow the whistle from your emergency kit.
  • Stay in the car. Although cold and claustrophobic, it’s safer than being outside.
  • Avoid deadly buildup of carbon monoxide by cracking windows to let fresh air in and prevent poisoning.
  • Run the engine for 15 minutes every hour to keep the vehicle warm and help melt ice and snow.
  • Leave on the dome light to see inside the vehicle and help people find you.
  • Avoid frostbite. Keep your circulation up by moving fingers, toes and wiggling in your seat.
  • Share body heat. If stranded with other passengers, huddle to keep warm.

When Trapped in Home or Office with No Power:

  • Turn off all light and appliances, especially anything with a heat element such as an electric range, an iron or toaster oven to prevent a fire when power is restored.
  • Keep one light on to know when power returns.
  • Don’t plug a portable generator into a wall outlet. The generator will feed electricity through the meter and out into the neighborhood, causing severe safety hazards.
  • Operate any portable generators outdoors, but before operating disconnect from the local power company system.
  • If using a portable generator, make sure appliances are plugged directly into the generator.
  • Choose a small room with few windows as your emergency living quarters. Keep windows, drapes and doors closed. Wear several layers of clothes and a hat.
  • Conserve water.
  • If you use a portable heater that burns liquid fuel, open a window for safe ventilation.
  • Keep an eye on elderly family members or children who may need assistance.

Wishing everyone a safe and warm winter season.

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National Weather Service Already Has Chosen Names for 2014 Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Hurricane-photo-forwebFirst responders in coastal regions will help people prepare for the worst during National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 25 through June 3.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1st through November 30. The Eastern Pacific season is May 15th through November 30. The National Weather Service has already compiled a list of names for hurricanes and tropical storms anticipated for this season.

Based on records dating to 1950, a typical season has 12 tropical storms; about seven of those become raging hurricanes. Tropical storms have sustained winds of 39 mph or higher, becoming hurricanes when those winds reach 74 mph, producing enough power to wreck houses and flood neighborhoods.
USA Today reports that even the best forecasts can be wrong. In 2012, more than twice as many hurricanes formed than were predicted. The results were devastating for many U.S. homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service says prepare early for hurricane season,and prepare well:
“Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off?”
The best advice includes acquiring an emergency preparedness kit containing items to help you and your family during a hurricane or tropical storm. Consider having more than one kit and storing those in different locations at your home or office. In addition, the National Weather Service advises:

Emergency Plans
• Protect yourself and family with a Family Emergency Plan for your residence
• Consider an Emergency Plan if you are away from home, such as at work
• Business owners should create a Workplace Emergency Plan
• Make sure that schools and daycare centers your children attend have School Emergency Plans
• Pet owners should plan to care for their animals with a special pet survival kit
• If you own a boat, prepare it for a coming storm or move it away from the coastal area

Be alert for evacuation guidelines from local authorities. It’s smart to keep a contact list of local resources including emergency management agencies, law enforcement, local hospitals and the American Red Cross.

The first ten names that the National Weather Service has chosen for 2014 hurricanes and tropical storms are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias and Josephine.

Be prepared for any of them!

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Top Ten U.S. States for Tornadoes That Damage Homes, People and Property

Tornado-Destruction

March through August is tornado season in the United States, where some 1,000 tornadoes hit every year. Be prepared. Tornadoes are more powerful than any other storm: They can toss freight trains like toys and throw your house down the block.
If you live in one of the top ten tornado states identified in order below, be smart and prepare yourself and your family for unexpected disaster:

  1. Florida is hit by more tornadoes than any other state in the U.S. and, also, also by more severe thunderstorms than any state.
  2. Oklahoma is the heart of what meteorologists call Tornado Alley. Its weather patterns often make warm and cool air collide — ideal for creating tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms.
  3. Kansas is where a mammoth twister whisked Dorothy and her little dog Toto to Oz, but it’s also where thousands of people are caught unprepared for damaging storms every year.
  4. Iowa was clobbered by 28 tornadoes in 2013 and averages of about 50 damaging thunderstorms every year.
  5. Illinois experienced one of its deadliest years on record for tornadoes in 2013. Storms generated widespread flooding and cut power in more than 160,000 homes and businesses.
  6. Indiana ranks second in the nation for the costs of tornado damage, sixth for the number of deaths and seventh for the number of personal injuries.
  7. Mississippi averages 29 tornadoes per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its coastal regions are hit by devastating hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
  8. Maryland ranks in the Tornado Top Ten because of its mid-south and Atlantic Ocean weather patterns generate many twisters and serious thunderstorms.
  9. Louisiana ranks second in the U.S. for the most thunderstorms annually and as a result, and averages 37 tornadoes per year.
  10. Texas averages 155 tornadoes per year – the most of any state — but its land mass is so large it ranks 10th in the U.S. per tornadoes every 10,000 square miles.
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Very Active Hurricane Season Expected

2013 hurricane season is expected to be very active

As we approach the peak of hurricane season, which began on June 1, NOAA has changed its earlier predictions. While they still expect this year to be above normal, it is expected that La Nina will be responsible for slightly reducing the number that was expected in the original forecast.

This year’s Atlantic season is expected to spawn 13 to 19 tropical storms, with 6 to 9 actually developing into hurricanes. This sounds similar to last year when there were 19 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes.

This year’s strongest storm is Hurricane Henriette in the Pacific, a Category 1 at the time of this writing. It is expected to strengthen as it approaches Hawaii. So far the Pacific has seen 8 tropical storms with 4 developing into hurricanes. The Atlantic has seen 4 tropical storms and no hurricanes – yet.

Are you prepared for hurricane season this year? Be sure to pay attention to the forecast and evacuate if directed to do so. Also, make sure you have the right supplies with a home survival kit that fits the size of your family and a hurricane kit to have the right tools to protect your home and family.

photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

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Your Winter Car Disaster Kit

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you, winter is here. This time of year can be dangerous, so it is a good idea to add a few extra items to your emergency kit.

  • Rock salt or something similar should be kept on hand to melt icy walkways and prevent falls.
  • Keep cat litter or sand in your vehicle to aid with traction if you get stuck.
  • Keep a shovel and ice scraper in your vehicle.
  • Keep extra clothing and blanket in your vehicle.
  • Be sure you add a tow rope, jumper cables and emergency flares to your vehicle roadside kit.

FEMA recommends that you check these things on your car:

  1. Ensure antifreeze levels are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  2. Be sure your battery and ignition system is in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  3. Check brakes for wear and fluid levels.
  4. Check your exhaust system for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary.
  5. Replace your fuel and air filters and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  6. Ensure your heater and defroster work properly.
  7. Check to be sure all lights, including hazard lights, are working properly.
  8. Check your vehicle’s oil level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  9. Ensure your thermostat works properly.
  10. Ensure your windshield wiper equipment works properly and maintain proper washer fluid level. Consider using a washer fluid that is also a deicer.
  11. Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some areas require chains or snow tires with studs.

Most of these things may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think of them until it is too late. Make sure your car is ready for a winter emergency and feel safer this winter. Get a car disaster kit for each vehicle you own.

Remember, if the weather is bad, it is better to stay home than risk a disaster while traveling.

photo credit: Metal Cowboy via photopin cc

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