The earth’s weather is very mysterious. One day it is sunny the next it is raining. In fact, sometimes as you are driving down the road, you hit the “wall” between a sunny day and a severe thunderstorm. Man has spent years trying to predict weather patterns but it is still an inexact science. This is a list of the most common occurring disasters of nature:
Typhoons only occur when there is already a weather disturbance happening. Usually, tropical cyclones come from fairly light winds, moisture and warm tropical waters that eventually combine with the preceding weather. The resulting typhoon is recognized by massive waves, harsh winds, tremendous rainfall and flooding. A super typhoon is an unusually powerful typhoon, usually equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
During a typhoon:
- Do not panic, remain calm.
- Pack foods that don’t need cooking.
- Keep flashlights, candles and battery-powered radios within reach.
- Examine your houses and repair unstable parts as much as possible.
- Secure domesticated animals in a safe place.
- Bring clothes, first-aid kit, candles/flashlights, battery-operated radios, food, etc. during evacuation.
- Stay inside the house and keep updates with the latest weather forecast.
- If safe drinking water is NOT available, boil water for at least 20 minutes, then place it in a container with cover.
- Keep an eye on lighted gas lamps.
- Do not wade through flood waters to avoid electrocution and water-borne diseases.
- Stay away from low-lying beaches or other locations which may be swept away by tides or waves.
- Check everything that may be blown away or turn loose. Flying objects are dangerous during typhoons.
- Do not use gas or electrical appliances that were submerged during flood.
- Be calm when going to an evacuation center. Close all windows and turn off main power switch before leaving home. Put important appliances and belongings on a high ground. Avoid roads leading to the river and areas prone to land-slide.
- Be sure that the house/ building is safe and stable before you enter.
- Beware of poisonous animals like snakes that may have entered your house.
- Watch out for live wires or outlet immersed in water and report damaged electrical cables and fallen electric posts to authorities.
A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land which is usually dry. Flooding occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall when natural watercourses do not have the capacity to convey excess water. However, floods are not always caused by heavy rainfall. They can result from other phenomena, particularly in coastal areas where inundation can be caused by a storm surge associated with a tropical cyclone, a tsunami or a high tide coinciding with higher than normal river levels. Dam failure, triggered for example by an earthquake, will result in flooding of the downstream area, even in dry weather conditions.
Be aware of the emergency flood plan in your area. While preparing for a flood, it is important to learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters. This information may come in handy if you are ever caught in dangerous flooding conditions.
Stay tuned. During inclement weather, keep informed by listening to your local radio or television stations. This way, you’ll stay up-to-date on possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress. You will also be properly advised as to what to do and when.
Be prepared to quickly evacuate. Flooding can happen fast, so it is important to have all the necessary items gathered in advance. Create an emergency supply kit that includes:
- Three-day water supply
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food (don’t forget your manual can-opener)
- Disposable plates, cups and utensils
- First aid kit including prescription medications
- Battery-powered radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Personal hygiene items
- Any essential items for individual family members, pets, etc.
Head for higher ground. Whether you are outside or within your home, if a flood occurs, you should always look for higher ground. According to the Red Cross, if you come to ankle-deep water, you should stop and go another way: Even as little as six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off your feet.
Avoid flood waters. If you are driving and come upon a flooded road, turn around and drive the other way. However, if you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground on foot. The Red Cross explains that most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Flood waters should also be avoided due to contamination or the possibility of being electrically charged due to fallen power lines.
Be careful in the dark. When evacuating in the evening, there is additional danger because flood hazards may be hard to see. If possible, travel during the day to avoid hard-to-see standing water and flood currents.
Use caution when cleaning up after a flood. While flood safety is paramount during a flood, you should also be cautious while in recovery mode. Avoid downed power lines, and make sure to report them to the power company. Beware of animals like snakes that could have made their homes in standing water. Also, clean and disinfect all inside surfaces that got wet. This should help prevent mold and mildew from forming.
Hurricanes are seasonal storms that can be a destructive force when impacting with land. They are in essence huge tropical cyclones that form over the ocean in the warmer climates of the Caribbean.
They begin as tropical depressions with winds up to 31 miles an hour. As they continue to develop and get stronger, they turn into a tropical storm with winds of 70+ miles per hour and eventually they turn into a full-blown hurricane with winds of 100+ miles per hour. Once they become a hurricane, they produce massive amounts of rain and winds that can leave a path of destruction in its aftermath.
The “eye” or center of the storm is a low-pressure system that sits in the center of the hurricane. When the eye approaches land, the wind and rain is practically gone, everything appears to be calm, but the back end of the hurricane is looming in the background to cause more devastation once the eye passes by. In addition to powerful wind and heavy rain, hurricanes cause huge ocean tidal surges that cause severe flooding. Millions of dollars in property damage occur every year from this. In addition, drowning causes about 90% of deaths during a hurricane.
Here are some things that you can do to prepare for an impending hurricane. A hurricane warning will be issued by the National Weather Service to warn you of a possible hurricane threat. You should have plenty of time to prepare for it.
- Board up all windows and doors that have glass panes. This stops the glass from flying inside.
- If a hurricane warning is issued, have a plan of action. It is best to evacuate the area and seek a safe shelter and the best route to get there in a hurry.
- If you live near the ocean, tie up any boats you have. Make sure to secure them in a safe place if possible. Evacuate the area because this area will most likely experience the devastation of ocean wave surges and heavy flooding.
- Remove any dead or hanging tree limbs if you have time, especially those close to the house to minimize damage to your home.
- Also if there is enough time, secure all rain gutters to your house.
- If you do decide to stay in your home during a hurricane, make sure to have the following on hand.
- Wind-up or battery powered radio and a good stock of batteries
- First Aid Kit with basic medicines
- Water Filter
- Needle & Thread
- Cash $$
- Jumper cables
- Food and Water (3 days worth or more preferably)
- Sanitation items such as baby wipes
- Baby items (milk etc.) if necessary
- Blankets, warm clothes and waterproofs
- Prepare a disaster kit with the above items and keep them stored in a dry, safe place so you don’t have to run around gathering them during a crisis.
- Make sure that your car is fueled up in case a fast get away is warranted.
- Secure all outdoor furniture and objects.
Tornadoes are the deadliest of all natural forces on earth. They are also known as “twisters and cyclones”, which leave a path of death and destruction behind. The main characteristic of tornadoes is the violent winds that twist and swirl in a counter clockwise direction north of the equator and a clockwise direction south of the equator. They appear as tall, black funnels that tower over land by extending downward from the base of a large cumulonimbus cloud.
Tornadoes can rotate at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour and in some rare cases, even faster than that. The center of the tornado contains low air pressure compared to the outside parameter, which has a much higher rate of air pressure.
It is the speed of the wind that causes death and so much destruction. Flying objects that are flung through the air like a lightweight toy usually kills people. The tornado appears to skip over the land, never staying in one place for more than a few minutes. It is due to this “skipping” method that tornadoes can leave one side of a street totally ravaged while the other side is virtually untouched. Tornadoes tend to be prevalent in the Midwestern and Southern parts of the US, although they can occur anywhere. They also occur more frequently in the spring and summer months and usually occur as part of a severe thunderstorm and often come in advance of cold fronts. However, they can also occur (although less frequently) ahead of warm fronts, and even behind cold fronts.
There are many things that you can do to prepare and protect yourself from the devastating effects of tornadoes.
- Find a safe shelter. If you have a storm cellar, it’s the best place to be during the storm.
- If you don’t have a storm cellar, go down into the basement; never stay in the upper floors.
- Create an emergency kit that contains all the essentials such as, food, water, batteries, candles, matches, blankets, first aid kit, etc. Leave this kit in the storm cellar or basement in case of an emergency.
- Make sure to take small pets into the basement or storm cellar with you.
- Never stand near a window during a tornado. The windows can blow out due to a drop in pressure.
- If you are in a shelter such as a school building, never stand in a room like a gymnasium that has high ceilings. Chances are that the tornado will take the roof off and you can get seriously hurt. Also stay away from doors that lead to the outside.
- If you are outside when a tornado strikes, try to take shelter under a highway overpass. If you are not near any, they look for a large ditch and jump in it if it is not raining outside. Always crouch down as low to the ground as possible to make yourself a “small” target.
- If you are in a car, park in as safe a place as possible and get out of the car. Find shelter as quickly as possible.
- Evacuate immediately if you live in a mobile home. A tornado will toss this around like it was a feather. The force of the tornado literally can hurl it into the next county. They offer no protection to you at all.
- Most of all, stay alert, listen to weather broadcasts and follow emergency instructions.
While this may not be considered as a big threat by many, it is still a natural phenomenon that can have devastating consequences. Lightning is still considered an understood occurrence. Its awesome power can be frightening and make no mistake it can be deadly. The fact is that lightning strikes kill and injure many people each and they start thousands of forest fires and causes millions of dollars in property damage every year.
Lightning strikes occur when electricity is discharged between rain clouds or between a rain cloud and the earth. Its arc of extremely bright light flashed in the sky. These flashes can be extremely long in length and very bright. Lightning is accompanied by the sound of thunder. Thunder is caused when air expands from being heated by the lightning, and then collides with cooler air creating the explosion sound of thunder. We hear thunder after the lightning because light travels faster than sound. Thunder alone is not dangerous although it may be frightening to some. It is the lightning that can cause the serious problems.
- Stay indoors during a lightning storm. Bring small animals in as well.
- If caught outside during a storm, never stand under tall objects such as trees. It is better to lie down in an open area away from tall objects.
- Do not swim in bodies of water during a storm. Leave the water immediately upon hearing the storm approach.
- Do not touch metal objects or machinery. Take off any metal gear if outside.
- Do not play golf or go fishing during a storm.
- Stay in the car if you happen to be driving during a storm, you are protected by the rubber in your tires. However, don’t touch metal objects while in the car, just to be safe.
- Do not use the phone during a storm.
- Shut off all small appliances such as air conditioners and television sets until the storm passes. Avoid using any electrical devices at all.
- Do not wash dishes in a sink during a storm, especially flatware.
All these things conduct electricity and lightning is most likely to strike in these situations. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Believe it or not, a heat wave can be a killer. Heat waves are categorized as prolonged periods of heat combined with excessive humidity. Usually a heat wave will last for several or more days in a row. Heat kills humans by pushing the body way beyond its functioning limits. When the temperature outdoors is extremely hot and the humidity is running very high, the human body must work twice as hard to keep a normal temperature because evaporation is slowed in these conditions.
Heat waves cause many types of heat related conditions that can have serious consequences for you. This is especially true if you are elderly, an infant, out of shape in general or have some type of condition like diabetes. These groups of people are more likely to die from heat exposure than others. Here are some conditions that can be caused by overexposure to extreme heat and humidity.
Heat cramps are basically muscular pain and spasms that are caused by overexertion. They are the first signal from your body that you are having trouble coping with the heat. However, they are not as severe a problem as other types of conditions caused by the heat.
Heat exhaustion happens when you over exercise or work in a hot, humid place and you lose your body fluids quickly through perspiration. Blood decreases to vital organs because blood flow is increasing to the surface of the skin to try to cool you down. This can cause you to go into a mild shock. If left untreated, your condition will worsen and your body temperature will keep rising with the possible of a heat stroke occurring.
Heatstroke or Sun Stroke
Heatstroke is a life threatening condition caused when the body’s temperature controls system stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death can occur. The body needs this temperature control system to function fully at all times to cool the body.
There are many things that you can do to prepare for heat waves. It is important to keep as cool as possible at all times.
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers.
- Keep storm windows up all year.
During a heat emergency
Here are several things that you can do to stay healthy during a heat wave.
- Stay indoors as much as possible and stay out of the sun.
- Stay on the lowest floor away from the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings that are air-conditioned.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Avoid strenuous work or exercise during the warmest part of the day.
- Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
Forest files cause more damage, loss of life and property every year because of inadequate fire protection and poor wild land forest management. Fighting a forest fire is extremely difficult. While helicopters drop water on the fire in an attempt to slow it down or put it out, often nature’s elements prevent any success. The wind, heat, lightning, and dryness keep fires blazing for many days despite efforts to stop them.
There are approximately 140,000 wildfires in the US yearly and of these, about 2,300,000 acres of forestland is burned and destroyed. In 1993, 700 homes were destroyed by raging wildfires in southern California alone. The cost of putting out these types of fires is astronomical, costing millions of dollars.
Preventing Forest Fires
If you are out enjoying our woodlands, you can do your part to prevent a fire by following these simple things.
- Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires.
- Keep all flammable objects away from the fire.
- Have fire-fighting tools nearby and handy.
- Carefully dispose of hot charcoal.
- Drown all fires thoroughly.
- Carefully extinguish smoking materials.
If you see a forest fire, remain calm, go to the nearest telephone and dial 911, ask for your local fire department, to report the fire as quickly as possible. Calmly tell the emergency dispatcher the location of the fire and the time you saw it. Stay on the telephone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.
When there is a dislocation of material within the earth’s layer or crust, an earthquake results because of the stress build up causing the rock to fracture along the fault plane. The forces pushing on a rock mass overcome the friction holding the rock in place and blocks of rock slip against each other causing the earthquake to happen. Vibrations made by the slipping rocks cause the shaking of the ground, they are known as “seismic waves.” Seismic waves will then travel in all directions from the area of fracture. In large earthquakes seismic waves may be detected over the entire earth. Sometimes these vibrations can be violent enough to cause catastrophic damage. Some earthquakes are light and happen in remote areas so they are barely felt. However, the violent ones that occur can literally knock you right out of your bed.
Earthquakes can have great intensity. The intensity becomes weaker outward for the epicenter of the earthquake. The intensity of an earthquake is measured in terms of its geological effects and the overall damage it brings. There are two major scales in which earthquakes are measured. These two scales are the Mercalli Scale and the Richter Scale. Keep in mind that various types of grounds react differently to the vibrations. For instance, buildings built on filled grounds are damaged more often than those that are built on solid rock are.
The magnitude of an earthquake consists of a single number that does not vary from place to place. It is the total energy that is released at the focus of an earthquake. The larger the magnitude, the stronger the earthquake is. The amount of destruction caused by an earthquake is dependent on:
- The magnitude
- Kind of ground
- Type of building
- Location of the focus in relation to populated areas
Aftershocks of an earthquake can continue for days after the initial earthquake strikes. Sometimes these aftershocks are more powerful than the original earthquake.
Protection during an Earthquake
There are some things that you can do to protect yourself during an earthquake.
- During an earthquake it is important to drop and cover yourself. Fall to the floor and get under some type of covering for protection. Above all stay calm.
- If you are outdoors when an earthquake occurs, stay as far away from buildings as possible.
- Stay away from windows and glass. Also stay clear of anything that can fall from above.
- If you are in a crowd, do not panic and run for an exit. Everyone will be doing that and that leads to many injuries, even death from trampling. Stay calm and take cover under something heavy while avoiding items that can fall on you.
- Be prepared for aftershocks after the earthquake has ended.
I am sure that everyone is well aware of the huge tsunami that hit Indonesia earlier in 2005. It was devastating to the region and resulted in an unbelievable number of lives lost. The power and fury of a tsunami is unbelievable.
The Japanese came up with the name tsunami, which means “tidal wave.” A tidal wave is a huge wave that forms in the ocean caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic explosion. A set of waves is then created and moves across the ocean until they reach the shore. The length of these waves can extend from 60-120 miles wide and travel at 800 kilometers per hour. The closer to shore that the waves get, the higher they get as well. When they finally reach shore, they can be as high as 50ft or more. They pack great energy and force because of the volume of water resulting in death and devastation. These towering walls of water can wipe out entire cities and towns. When a tsunami strikes the shore, it creates a number of waves with troughs that are lower than normal sea level. Each following wave is higher than the one before it. The period between waves is 10 to 30 minutes. This usually gives people ample time to escape to high ground after the first wave.
Here are some things to consider to keep you safe during a tsunami.
- Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs.
- People living along the coast should take earthquakes under consideration as a warning signal of a coming tsunami. A rise or fall in coastal waters is a sign that a tsunami is approaching the coast.
- Make evacuation plans.
- Pick more than one evacuation route.
- Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 and which radio station to listen for information.
- Have disaster supplies on hand.
- Portable, battery-operated radio
- First aid kit
- Emergency food and water
- Essential medicines
- Dry clothing and blankets
- In case family members are separated from one another during a tsunami have a plan for getting back together. Make sure everyone knows who the contact person is or the meeting place.