New England Blizzard Watch Toolkit


We’re expecting a severe weather event later today that will measure the snow in feet, not inches. According to most reports, snow will begin this afternoon, intensify during the evening, continue all day tomorrow and taper off either overnight or early Wednesday. It’s been classified as a blizzard  — and in case you need a name to curse, this storm has been dubbed “Juno.”

NWS Taunton Skywarn offers the Latest NWS Graphics on the potentially historic blizzard, noting that “Accumulating snows arrives this afternoon & impacts the late day commute across RI & Eastern MA. Then heavy snow arrives later tonight into Tue morning with historic snowfall possible before the storm pulls away late Tue night or early Wed. In addition Hurricane Force Wind gusts are likely across Cape Cod & the Islands late tonight into Tue morning. This will likely result in down tree limbs and at least scattered power outages.”

As of this morning, more than 2,000 flights have been cancelled. CNN offers info on What you need to know if you’re traveling

We’ve been tracking developments on our New England weather twitter feed, a compilation of breaking tweets from regional meteorologists – Twitter is a great source for breaking news so if you don’t have the app on your phone, you may want to think about doing that pre-storm. For a view beyond New England, meteorologist Eric Holthaus offers a go-to weather climate list of hundreds of weather watchers.

Here are resources to have handy as the storm approaches:

National Weather Service – (NWS Twitter)

State Emergency Departments – websites / Twitter feeds

Connecticut  – (@CTDEMHS)

Maine – (@MaineEMA)

Massachusetts – (@MassEMA)

New Hampshire – (@NH_HSEM)

Rhode Island – (@RhodeIslandEMA)

Vermont – (@vemvt)

Handy tips

Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide – emergency tips for before, during and after a storm

Winter Storm Preparedness – Red Cross

Power Outages During Cold Weather

Preventing frozen pipes: tips from the experts

Winter fires (PDF)

Before and after winter storms: advance planning and filing claims

Snow shoveling and snow removal safety

Sharing the road with snow plows & more winter driving tips

Are you ready for snowy, icy roads? Hone your winter driving skills

Winter Driving Tips

Lessons from Lightning Strike Survivors

In honor of Lightning Strike Awareness Week, we bring you some survivor stories. What’s your chance of being struck by lightning? Well, in any given storm, about 1 in 750,000; but over the course of a lifetime, about 1 in 6,250. If worse comes to worst, you will probably survive – about 9 out of every 10 people who are struck by lightning survive to tell the tale, but many are plagued with a variety of medical problems and disabling conditions over a lifetime.

In these clips, people talk about what the experience was like and discuss some of the after effects.

Being stuck by lightning does not make you immune – this poor man was struck by lightning 6 times!

Don’t join their ranks – here are indoor and outdoor lightning safety tips from the National Weather Service.

Freak hail storms prompt insurance questions about coverage for damage

Here in New England, our weather disasters are primarily winter-related. We managed to dodge the bullet of freak hail storms that have been plaguing many parts of the country in recent weeks. Check out the photo links and videos below to see just how freaky and wild the damage from such storms can be.

We’ve noticed an uptick of questions about hail lately:

Q. Is hail damage to my house covered by my homeowners insurance?
A. Most homeowner policies cover hail damage. See this handy chart from the Insurance Information Institute on the types of disasters covered by homeowners insurance, as well as a discussion of typical exclusions (floods and earthquakes both require specific policies or endorsements)

Q. Does my auto insurance cover hail damage?
A. Do you have comprehensive coverage? That is the portion of an auto policy that generally would cover damage caused by hail. See the III on what is covered by a basic auto insurance policy.

Texas A&M university offers an explanation of what causes hail, as well as this fascinating information about record-breaking hail from the University’s Dr. Dick Orville:

“A hailstone the size of a baseball weighs about one-third of a pound, and since it can travel up to 90 miles an hour from its source cloud, it can create a lot of damage. Entire crops have been known to be wiped out in a few minutes with large hailstones. In 1978, about 200 sheep were killed in Montana when baseball-size hail struck them. The largest hailstone ever recorded in the U.S. occurred in 1970 in Coffeyville, Kan., when a stone weighing 1.6 pounds and measuring 5.5 inches fell, while in 1973 a hailstone hit Cedoux, Saskatchewan, and measured 4 inches. But we know that larger stones have fallen around the world. In 1984, a hail storm hit Denver and lasted almost one hour and the result was knee-deep hailstones on the ground. This is why hail can be such a damaging weather force.”

Seeing is believing
Check out these photo galleries and video clips showing recent damage by freak hail storms in Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

It’s Never Too Late To Winter Proof Your Home

Insurers are still tallying up storm-related losses for the Halloween storm that has been called the freakiest ever. It’s thought that when the final price tag comes in, losses will fall between $1 and $3 billion.

If you remained unscathed from this storm then you are one of the lucky ones, but don’t count on your luck holding out in the future. Winter storms cause more than one billion dollars in damage annually and are the third largest cause of catastrophe losses. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the following about New England weather: “…the upcoming winter will be the equivalent of a cold slap in the face, as we forecast much colder-than-normal temperatures.”

All this should serve as a reminder that it’s important to take the necessary precautions to prevent unnecessary damage to your home. The Insurance Information Institute has posted a list of helpful tips to Winter-Proof Your House. We’ve reprinted a summary of their recommended preventative measures here:

Outside Your Home

  • Clean out gutters
  • Install gutter guards
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches
  • Repair steps and handrails
  • Seal cracks in holes in outside walls and foundations.

Inside Your Home

  • Keep the house warm.
  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
  • Have the heating system serviced.
  • Check pipes.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system.
  • Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly.
  • Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage.

While all these tips are helpful the most important thing is to review your insurance coverage to make sure you are adequately covered. Remember, flood insurance is not included in standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Don’t wait to learn your coverage limits until after something happens — it may make for unpleasant surprises — talk to your insurance agent today!

A good summer safety plan: Don’t be a lightning strike victim!

June 19 to June 25 is Lightning Safety Week. It’s good timing because we are approaching the heaviest lightning season. Hopefully, we’ve already had our fill of extreme weather this year, but there are no guarantees. In an average year, there are 57 fatal lightning strikes, most occurring in June, July and August. There have been 4 lightning fatalities so far this year – three of them occurring during agricultural work and one related to tornado search-and-rescue. The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning fatalities for the current year, as well as for prior years going back to 1959. Last year, there were 29 fatalities, a remarkably low year. The top 5 states for lightning fatalities over the past 10 years are Florida (62), Colorado (26), Texas (24), Georgia (19), and North Carolina (18).
Not everyone who is struck by lightning is killed – many survive to tell the tale. You can read some harowing stories of lightning strike survivors – there’s even a support group: Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors.
Your odds of being hit by lightning are about 1 in 700,000 – but experts all agree that you should take care not to make yourself a target. For a little motivation, you might visit Human Voltage, a page that NASA compiled to document what happens when people and lightning converge.
The National Weather Service has 5 simple words of safety advice: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!. We’re reprinting Here is their safety advice:

“There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.

The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe.

When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.

Lightning Victims: If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed.”

Additional resources:
Indoor Safety
Outdoor Safety
Lightning Safety on the Job
Lightning truths and myths