“Are you Ready?” for Extreme Cold and Other Natural and Man-made Disasters

January 23, 2014

Image below: Graph depicts how variations in the polar vortex affect weather in the mid-latitudes. Courtesy: National Science Foundation

Polar-vortex-fall-to-winter-chartAs the United States shivers under the Arctic Express, Polar Vortex, Polar Cyclone, Polar Low, Circumpolar Whirl or whatever name you call it (I just call it FREEZING!!!!) with snow, ice, and some of the most extreme cold conditions in decades, Americans will be happy to know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has help available in the form of its extremely useful new disaster preparedness guide, Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745Intended as both a reference source as well as a step-by-step manual, this easy-to-follow guide has been designed to help Americans “learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards”.

According to the FEMA authors:

The focus of the content is on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster to protect people and their property. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit that contains the food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources.

The guide advises on planning before a disaster, responding during a disaster, and recovering after a disaster and is organized into the following sections: Why Prepare, Part 1 Basic Preparedness, Part 2 Natural Hazards, Part 3 Technological Hazards, Part 4 Terrorism, and Part 5 Recovering from Disaster.

Each chapter has specific tips on preparation, what to do during the particular disaster, instructions for what to do afterwards, and where to go for more information, including links for free publications.

Disasters and emergencies cover the gamut in three areas:

a)      Natural Hazards, including: Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms and Lightning, Winter Storms and Extreme Cold,  Extreme Heat, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Landslides and Debris Flow (Mudslide), Tsunamis, Fires and Wildfires;

b)      Technological Hazards, including:  Hazardous Materials Incidents, Household Chemical Emergencies, and Nuclear Power Plants

c)      Terrorism, including: General terrorist threats, Explosions, Biological Threats, Chemical Threats, Nuclear Blast, and Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD).

Are You Ready?… for Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-80-Winter-Storms-and-Extreme-ColdAs I was concerned about the extreme cold, I turned to Part 2, Natural Hazards, Section 2.5 Winter Storms and Extreme Cold.

In the preparation part, I found useful terminology such as the difference between sleet and freezing rain, protective measures and supplies to gather, tips on how to winterize my car (e.g., have you cleaned your car battery terminals and used gasoline additives to keep water out of your fuel lines?) and how to dress for the winter weather (did you know mittens are warmer than gloves?).

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-83-Winter-Dress-for-ColdDuring a winter storm, “Are you ready?” gives more advice, such as what to do if a blizzard traps you in the car and how to watch for signs of hypothermia.

[Signs of hypothermia]… include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

Other Useful Information in “Are You Ready?”

In addition to information on specific types of emergencies, the guide includes a number of other very useful resources.

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit:  A whole chapter is devoted to assembling a good general disaster supplies kit for multiple locations: home, work and vehicle.

Practice Makes Perfect: Advice on how to practice and maintain your emergency plan is under Section 1.6.

General Evacuation Guidelines:  Tells what to do to prepare your home if you have to evacuate, such as utility shut-off and safety, reviewing and securing of insurance and vital records, and so on.

Special Needs: Information on how to do disaster planning to accommodate someone with disabilities is included.

Pets: Caring for pets in emergencies is not forgotten, either.

FEMA Hazard Maps: It highlights how to get free hazard maps from FEMA in your area by accessing FEMA’s Hazard Mapping Portal.

Homeland-Security-Threat-Assessments-Color-MatrixWarning Systems and Signals: The guide explains different national alert systems such as the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR), as well as the Homeland Security Advisory System with its Threat Conditions thermometer.

Quizzes: The guide even includes some quizzes such as the Terrorism Knowledge Check on page 172 that asks such questions as:

What would you do, if you were at work and…

a. there was an explosion in the building?

b. you received a package in the mail that you considered suspicious?

c. you received a telephone call that was a bomb threat?

Mental Health Issues: Tips are included on how to recognize if children vs. adults may need crisis counseling or stress management assistance as well as how to ease disaster-related stress (such as attending memorial services). For children, guidelines are included by age range of common reactions to traumatic events, along with tips on how adults can reassure children after a disaster.

For additional information about Federal mental and medical emergency resources, read our previous blog post: “Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources.”

Family Forms: The guide is customizable to you and your family with forms to fill out for your own emergency plans. Included is a form for you to use to fill out information as you collect it from your local authorities on possible hazards and emergencies in your community, the Risk Level and how to reduce your risk, along with a “Community and Other Plans” form to use to record answers from your local officials about your community’s disaster and emergency plans.  Also included is a form to draw and to record your family’s specific evacuation route and another to record your Family Communications Plan.

Checklists and Appendices: The guide also includes some handy appendices: Appendix A: Water Conservation Tips, Appendix B: Disaster Supplies Checklist, and the all-important Appendix C: Family Communications Plan.

Preparedness Websites: One is a list of Disaster Public Education Websites from both the Federal Government such as FEMA’s own Ready.gov site (www.ready.gov), as well as non-Governmental sites, like the Institute for Business and Home Safety, www.ibhs.org.

Disaster Recovery Assistance: Finally, advice and resources for getting disaster recovery assistance are covered in the Are You Ready? guide, too.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745How can I get a copy ofAre You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness”?

Whether you live near an active volcano; in Tornado Alley or a Hurricane Zone; in wildfire, mudslide or flood-prone areas; or just want to be prepared for any emergency—natural or man-made—this guide will help you save the day!

  • MULTIPLE COPIES: FEMA recommends having a completed guide for each location for your family members: home, work or school, and your vehicle(s). Fill out the customizable sections in each copy with your relevant family, workplace and community information.
  • Shop Online: You can buy this publication from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by:
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Digital: Find a PDF version on the FEMA site.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for it in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Be a NOAA-it-all with these FREE NOAA resources about the weather and oceans

November 12, 2013

In the morning when I get on the elevator up to my office in GPO headquarters, when they aren’t talking about sports, everyone is chatting about the weather. My colleagues compare the day’s weather with previous years and talk about what’s coming in the days and seasons ahead. Since Washington, DC’s weather varies greatly throughout the year (even through the day!), people in this area are always taking the pulse of the outdoors and our world. In a similar vein, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, the U.S. Government’s oldest scientific agency, is taking the pulse of the Earth, for our benefit.

Graohic of NOAA services from Explore NOAA movie on Government Book Talk by GPOClick here to “Explore NOAA” in this movie about the Nation’s oldest scientific agency. 

You can be a NOAA-it-all with these FREE online resources

NOAA says that “Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.” As such, its mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

Once they’ve taken the Earth’s pulse, of course NOAA wants to share the output of their studies. The data the agency gathers when studying the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans is comprehensive, and it is a global leader in communicating how Earth’s atmosphere and water systems influence people’s lives and how they influence those systems. If you learn how to navigate the range of NOAA’s free online resources, including real-time and archived information, you will get the full benefit of this rich data.

NOAA educates and disseminates data from its many valuable services, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Ocean Service, the National Weather Service and others. Their information comes packaged in videos, weather alerts, digital coastal charts, entire databases, atlases, podcasts, screensavers, sea sounds, field reports, tagging data, and an entire education Web site for teachers and kids. NOAA has resources for children that are as unique and valuable as their science.

Whether to Weather

For instance, NOAA’s Weather Systems and Patterns page has a multimedia, lessons and activities, real world data, background information and career profiles. A student who is interested in extreme weather can graph tornado air pressure in the lessons section, investigate the severe weather events page in the real world data, track a storm in the multimedia section, read the background on severe weather, and even flirt with future career possibilities in the career profile of the tornado chaser.

NOAA Watch out-- Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn's Weather Book available from http://bookstore.gpo.govIf the student wants to follow up with extra reading at home with advice for the whole family,  Watch out– Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book can help round out the lesson. Total immersion in a topic is possible without ever leaving the site.

Free resources for teachers and students is a bonus that teachers, parents, caregivers and students should take full advantage of, and NOAA’s Education Resources page is a just one prime example what the agency’s got on offer for the American people.

Coastal Maps and Navigational Charts

Another instance of NOAA’s rich resources is its coastal maps. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey recently announced that they were no longer issuing printed U.S. Coastal maps; instead, they now make high-resolution Raster Navigational Charts for public use. The Office of Coast Survey offers over high quality, 400 dpi full-color digital images of NOAA’s entire suite of paper charts, for download and printing. Sailors, commercial fisherman, and anyone else interested can view and print these charts as well as the free Air Almanac, Nautical Almanac and Navigational Charts available from http://bookstore.gpo.govdemo software to use them; this is data of high commercial value available completely for free for the American people as well.

Note that up-to-date, printed US Government astronomical, air and nautical navigational charts and almanacs are still available from the US Government Bookstore under Transportation & Navigation > Almanacs & Navigation Guides.

Webinar on NOAA’s Free Online Resources

Librarians and Teachers: Attending tomorrow’s joint NOAA-GPO webinar, “Discover Your World With NOAA: Learn How NOAA Monitors the Pulse of the Earth, and How to Access and Use NOAA’s Free Online Resources” is a great way you can learn to reap the benefit of NOAA’s rich data offerings. Registration for this free training webinar is available now. It will be offered Wednesday, November 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time;  GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division (LSCM) will archive the session on the free GPO Webinar Archive for those who cannot attend. Hopefully you can make it to the live webinar or find some time to look at the archived webinar after it takes place.

NOAA’s Ark of Great Reads

IUnderstanding Marine Debris: Games & Activities for Kids of All Ages: Marine Debris 101 ISBN 9780160913624 available from bookstore.gpo.govn addition to attending the webinar, you can mine some of NOAA’s resources by reading some of these stellar NOAA publications:

Satellite-Images-to-Accpompany-the-Globe-Earth-System-Poster-Learning-NOAA-9780160864643

How can I obtain these NOAA publications?

1)    FOR THE PUBLIC

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the links above in this blog post or clicking here to shop our entire NOAA collection.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

2)    FOR LIBRARIANS

About the author(s): Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP).


Rebuilding after the floods: FEMA shares lessons learned after Sandy

October 28, 2013

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm or Hurricane Sandy. The destruction and devastation is still felt by many people on the East Coast as they rebuild and recover from this historic superstorm.

Damaged-homes-Superstorm-Sandy-GazetteImage: In this Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, a view from the air shows the destroyed homes left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. Photo Credit: Mike Groll, Associated Press

Sandy is only one storm among many that have caused Americans agony in recent years. As recently as last month, catastrophic flooding damaged Colorado, and we never know what is coming in the future – when the next natural disaster will strike.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for providing aid to those affected by natural disasters, which includes resources like fact sheets and publications for consumers and local and state governments  on how to prepare for and recover from devastating floods.

Road-damage-Colorado-floods-2013Image: A flood-wrecked road in Colorado, September 16, 2013. Photo credit:  KUSA.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book – Roadways

Hazard-Mitigation-Field-Book_Flooded-Roadways_9780160902031One of the biggest problems immediately after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy is the impact of flooding on the infrastructure, particularly roads, that prevent emergency responders and local officials from getting in to the flooded areas to assess the damage, or construction personnel from getting materials in to rebuild.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways focuses on ways for municipalities to lessen the impact of flooding on roadways. This FEMA roadway damage field guide helps state and local governments rapidly assess various flood-caused roadway hazards and identify the best hazard mitigation (HM) solutions for the situation. It also includes case studies and general design guidance to help prevent damage to and around roadways through engineering and construction practices.

The information is very technical— focusing on the various problems that can result from flooded roadways and how to fix, prevent and reduce the impact of the problems. FEMA is encouraging governments to be proactive and repair substandard infrastructure rather than getting stuck in a disaster-rebuild-disaster cycle that is often costly and does not fix the problem. But while the intended audience for this publication is local and state governments, it contains useful information for any concerned citizen. Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways is available both in Spiral-bound Print and as an ePub eBook.

Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction

Home-builders-guide-coastal-construction_9780160914133Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction is comprised of 37 fact sheets broken down by ten topics related to residential coastal construction. The fact sheets are designed with photographs, drawings, charts and diagrams presenting the information in a user-friendly way. FEMA shares best practices and the reasoning behind them in order to improve the performance of buildings subject to flood and wind forces in coastal environments. Many of the fact sheets also include a list of additional resources on the topic.

This guide is a great resource for those who already sustained damage and need advice on how to rebuild while also renovating and improving your existing coastal residence.

Building contractors, realtors and others in the construction industry who work with homes in hurricane or typhoon-prone areas should take special note as Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction includes the newest building codes and recommendations for flood, storm and hurricane resistant construction learned from recent disasters.

[NOTE: For New Jersey residents, here is a Rebuilding After Sandy Fact Sheet about new state building requirements for coastal construction which refers to homes declared "substantially damaged buildings" (see below).]

Other Flood Publications

Answers-to-Questions-about-Substantially-Damaged-Buildings_064-000-00048-9A good companion book to the Home Builder’s Guide is the Answers to Questions About Substantially Damaged Buildings (Paperback) and eBook version which provides information on FEMA regulations and policy on substantial improvement as it applies to damaged structures.

Floods-The-Awesome-Power_9780160814181Floods: The Awesome Power is a consumer guide sold in a package of 25 from NOAA’s National Weather Service that explains flood-related hazards, and suggests life-saving actions you can take.

Prevention is Worth A Gallon of Cure

One year ago, Americans along the East Coast were evacuating and seeking shelter from Hurricane Sandy, and one month ago Coloradoans were under water. With each natural disaster there are lessons learned that can hopefully make a difference in preventing tragedy for when the next one strikes. Whether you live on the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf Coast, or any flood-prone area, these valuable publications can help communities and homeowners rebuild and hopefully lessen the impact for when the damage is done.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE FLOOD-RELATED PUBLICATIONS?

You can find these Federal flood and flood control publications through any of these methods:

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Go to a Library: GPO provides copies of these publications to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find them in a library near you.

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


People Get Ready, There’s a Storm Coming

May 29, 2013

Hopefully, you’ve never had to live through a hurricane or a tornado. I count myself lucky to have escaped the worst of the major weather events; living in an area that gets spent hurricanes is bad enough.

nhpwBanner2013If you live near the Atlantic Coast, as I do, you do need to worry about hurricanes. You want to remember June 1 as a significant date. It’s the start of the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to October 1. For that reason, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) kicks off National Hurricane Preparedness Week every year before the season starts. If you can’t leave home to avoid being in the path of hurricanes, the next best thing you can do is be prepared.  Make plans for getting through a storm: family communication plans and buddy plans. Build your disaster kit.

After my family and I lived through a man-made disaster, we made an evacuation plan so we know how we’ll try to reach safety. You should talk with your family about emergency strategies. Having plans for a storm or disaster doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them, but you’ll be far better off than if you don’t have a plan. Go through checklists you can find at www.ready.gov and find out everything you can to be organized.

Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet

For further children’s activities and tutorials, there’s Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet, designed for ages nine and older. The slim volume describes the history of the word “hurricane”, as well as the reasons NOAA attaches personal names to each hurricane. The work also explains hurricane wind scales, defines hurricanes and typhoons, and much more.

Of special note are the accompanying pictures of some of recent history’s most destructive storms—Irene, Dora, Kenneth, Rick, Katia and of course, Katrina—help students understand how colossal they are. The photos show the storms nestled up against landmasses that they overshadow. If you could not visualize how large and fearsome these storms were before, you’d know it after you saw their photos. The informative graphics, puzzles, tests and quizzes provided will give children a good basic understanding of hurricanes.

katrina_in_gulf_2005-08-28Image: NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, taken on Aug. 28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT, a day before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina’s winds peaked near 175 miles per hour. Credit: NOAA

After studying both Hurricanes and Watch Out-Storms Ahead!, your kids should be as intellectually prepared as they can be.

Ready…Set…Prepare!

ReadySetPrepareYou’ll want to pick up a copy of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 4-7] Reading it will help your kids learn how to help your family prepare for storms in a more practical sense. FEMA designed this activity book to teach kids ages four to seven how to prepare for disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Two cartoon kid characters—Angela and Mario, along with their emergency expert friends Bright Shinely and Newser—learn what they, too, can do to help their families prepare for disasters. (Parents and teachers of Dora and Diego fans, take note: these characters will seem eerily familiar. ;-)

Each chapter gives the basic facts about evacuation plans, family communication plans, pet care plans, and the types of disasters. Practical lists are scattered throughout that may help adults as much as children, such as a disaster supply kit list. Fun exercises to color and flashcards to cut out with the child’s recently acquired scissoring skills are also included.

Ready-Set-Prepare_ages-8-11Your children will find some solid entertainment packed in with the lessons included in this book. They are likely to wind up exhorting you to get your emergency plan together—and what could be better than that? Getting yourself and the little people in your life ready for an emergency is one of the best things you could do to protect your most precious assets.

FEMA created another version of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 8-11]. This contains more sophisticated activities and lessons for the older elementary schooler to prepare for emergencies.

Watch Out…Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book

owlie-skywarn_coverAn important part of making these plans is educating the children in your life—your children, your students, etc. If you are working with school-aged children, a good place to start is the excellent picture/activity book, Watch Out-Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. This volume is a joint publication of NOAA, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross, and it covers tornadoes, lightning, floods and winter storms as well as hurricanes.

The book shows children what they can do to help their families get ready. There are quizzes, warnings, preparation and evacuation tips, and statistics that will help kids understand the importance of being prepared. Since the pictures are black and white, your kids can color them too. Throw this book and a packet of crayons in your disaster kit.

Sample question from the quiz: “A hurricane [blank] means a hurricane is expected within 36 hours and winds could reach 74 mph or more.” (answer: Warning)

How can I obtain these publications?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). (Article is adapted from an original  post in the FDLP Community site blog by Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager.)


Owlie Skywarn helps us all prepare for bad weather

October 26, 2012

With the threat of an unusual “Frankenstorm” pre-Halloween hurricane possibly combined with a blizzard about to hit the East Coast in the next few days, I found myself with a dozen others at the store last night buying batteries, flashlights and bottled water. Next to me was a mother with two small children, one of whom asked loudly, “Mommy, why is everybody buying batteries and water?” I chuckled to myself as I looked at the frazzled adults and wondered how she’d explain what the fuss was about. With the rise in severe weather events in the United States and the related rise in media coverage about these creating anxiety in both young and old, parents and teachers have a lot of “‘splaining” to do to children.

NOAA Owlie Skywarn's Weather BookFortunately, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in conjunction with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) and the American Red Cross, have prepared a terrific new booklet, Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book, to explain different types of severe weather and how to prepare for each.

Although formatted to appeal to children, with “Owlie Skywarn” the cartoon weather owl introducing topics on most pages, this booklet is valuable for all ages.

The book covers the gamut of severe weather, from hurricanes and tornadoes to lightning, floods and winter storms.

For each type of weather, Owlie explains what it is, what kind of alerts or warnings may be issued and by whom, how to prepare in advance (if possible), and how to react while it is happening. For example, a great page illustrates a car safety kit every driver should have if he or she lives in places that get deep snow. Still other pages tell you where to go and how to protect yourself when a tornado warning is issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service, or over the Emergency Alert System, whether at home, school, office, store, outdoors or in a car.

Sprinkled throughout are anecdotes from real people and towns that make the advice come alive. One is the story of a retired National Park Ranger who has been struck by lightning seven times and lived to tell the tale (albeit now with lightning rods all over his home). Yikes! Fascinating (and intimidating) weather facts are included like the fact that the most snow in one month in the United States actually fell in Tamarack, California, in 1911: a whopping 32.5 feet or 390 inches (or 10 meters for our non-US readers)!

At the end of the book are quizzes and activities that can be used by a family at home or teachers in school with children to help ensure the lessons get through that severe weather is not to be played with.

My recommendation to parents, teachers, well, really everyone is get a copy of Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book, read it, prepare, and keep it with your other extreme weather supplies. These are lessons worth repeating often. I’ve got my copy with my spare batteries and my NOAA weather emergency radio.

P.S. And to that mother in the flashlight and batteries aisle preparing for Hurricane Sandy: You will be happy to know that the answer to your daughter’s question about why everyone is buying batteries and water can be found on page 6.

HOW DO I OBTAIN Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find this and other books about Weather and Climate on our new online bookstore.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Trickle, Trickle, Splash, Splash

September 9, 2011

 As I sit here writing this, it’s raining. It’s been raining for days, as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Lee. Before that, we got rain from Hurricane Irene, although thankfully not what Vermont and Upstate New York received. Before that, innumerable August thunderstorms had dumped inches of precipitation on us. The forecast for the next few days? More rain. Earlier this summer I read that our area was in a “moderate drought” state. Ha! I was just bemoaning our saturated state with a co-worker, in the course of which I said “I’ve been blogging about earthquakes and hurricanes, so I guess I’ll have to dig out a Government publication on floods.” Aha!

 This brings me to Floods: The Awesome Power, a National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA to the cognoscenti) booklet that covers all kinds of flooding scenarios, including the one I’m putting up with right now. “Floods are often produced by hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. A tropical cyclone’s worst impact may be the inland flooding associated with torrential rains. When these storms move inland, they are typically accompanied by very heavy rain.” Happily, we’re not experiencing what Louisianans did a few days ago, but it wouldn’t be totally unprecedented, either. A few years ago a freak weather system dumped tons on rain around here, resulting in a mini-flash flood in our basement – two or three inches worth. All I’ll say is that pulling up waterlogged wall-to-wall carpeting underlain with ratty-looking linoleum squares isn’t my favorite thing to do. Last night, after work, I spent a couple of hours down there mopping up from the current seepage, and the stream down the block looked way high. It can happen anywhere.

Floods: The Awesome Power not only covers the types of weather systems that can cause flooding, it provides information on how to keep track of such events, how to prepare in advance (“Store drinking water in food-grade containers. Water service may be interrupted”) what to do when the deluge is upon you (“Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants sweeping them away. Vehicles can be swept away by as little as 2 feet of water”), and what to do afterward (“If the power is out, use flashlights, not candles”). Guilty as changed on that last point – it sounds as if I need more batteries and less wax around the house. There’s also a detailed outline on how to develop a family disaster plan, which could be useful in any number of crisis situations.

All in all, I don’t know of a better way to find out a lot about coping with flooding in a concise, easy-to-read format. You can read Floods: The Awesome Power here, buy it in packs here (great for neighborhood associations and other groups), or find it in a library. As for me, this old doo-wop classic says it all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Stormy Weather

August 29, 2011

It’s been a pretty eventful week. Last Tuesday, we experienced a rare and slightly unnerving earthquake, immediately followed by the biggest hurricane to hit this region since Isabel in 2003. I’m glad it’s too early for a blizzard, but the way things have been going, I may be over-optimistic.

I used multiple media sources to keep an eye on Irene. One of the best is the National Hurricane Center (NHC), which provided (and as of 5 a.m. this morning still was providing) the latest on the storm’s present and future movements. NHC is the source for much of the data re-disseminated by national, regional, and local weather outlets, so using its Web site really gets you right to the heart of forecasting when you really want the latest and most authoritative information on hurricanes, tropical storms (TS), and tropical depressions (TD). At first glance, I did feel a certain depression myself when I checked in with the NHC this morning – the first thing I saw was a map showing TS Jose and TD Twelve. Fortunately, Jose seems destined to zip off into the further reaches of the North Atlantic and dissolve, while poor TD Twelve, lacking even a cool name beginning with K, hasn’t shaped up into anything much – yet. Things could change, though, so I think I’ll keep on checking…

Although most of us around the DC area escaped any major damage, the reports of heavy going along the coast and flooding in Vermont should remind us to take hurricane warnings seriously. I read a news story quoting a former NHC head, who said his worst case scenario is a hurricane that does much less damage than advertised, followed by a really deadly one – because the public will refuse to take the warning seriously the second time around. We tend to forget quickly in these multimedia news-saturated days, but we should remember the colossal disaster that was Katrina. If you need a reminder, reports from the White House and Congress are still available online – and in print, here and here.

I, for one, plan to keep a wary eye on both the NHC and Earthquake Hazard Program Web sites.  That way, I’ve got earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, ice storms, and heat waves covered. After the events of the past week, I’m convinced that anythingcan happen!

 

 


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