Lightning Safety Awareness – Get the Facts


lightning strike at night, home in foreground

It’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. It’s good timing because July is the month with the most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), four people have been killed by lightning so far this year. On average, 43 people died of lightning strikes each year over a 10-year period. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. Your odds of being struck in a given year are about 1/1,222,000. Your odds of being struck in your lifetime if you live to be 80 are about 1/15,300.

From 2006 through 2019, 418 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States.

  • 2/3 of the deaths occurred to people engaged in outdoor leisure activities
  • Males accounted for 79% of all fatalities
  • Fishermen accounted for four times as many fatalities as golfers
  • Beach activities and camping each accounted for about twice as many deaths as golf
  • Of work-related activities, farming was most dangerous
  • Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida are the top four states with the highest recorded number of lightning strikes
  • Florida ranks first in lightning strike fatalities
  • 1/3 of all lightning related injuries occur indoors
  • Lightning can have a range of up to 10 miles from the thunderstorm. It’s important to go inside at first sign of an approaching storm and to say inside up to 30 minutes after a storm has passed

Did you know that there are five ways that lightning can strike you?

Check out lightning myths & facts

NWS offers these tips about what you need to know to stay safe outdoors:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips – If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

For many years, the advice was to assume a crouch position if caught outside, but NWS stopped recommending the crouch in 2008 because it simply doesn’t provide significant protection

Indoor Lightning Safety

Some victims were struck inside homes or buildings while they were using electrical equipment or corded phones. Others were in contact with plumbing, outside doors, or window frames. Avoid contact with these electrical conductors when a thunderstorm.

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that power surges caused by lightning can damage the electronics in your home. They offer this advice:

  • Lightning protection systems intercept lightning strikes and provide grounding path for dangerous electricity to discharge safely, leaving occupants and homes safe from harm
  • Panel box surge protective devices (SPDs) serve as the first line of defense against harmful home electrical surges, limiting voltages by diverting currents at the electrical service entrance. Only qualified electricians should install SPDs
  • Point of use surge protectors protect electronics plugged into the device from surges, must be replaced over time or after a major surge event
  • Power strips do not provide surge protection
  • No surge device can handle a direct lightning strike. Unplug sensitive electronics well before a storm to prevent damage

Additional resources

Hurricane Dorian Toolkit: Emergency Prep and Tracking Resources


image of a hurricane forming for hurricane emergency prep

Thursday updates

Hurricane Dorian is not over. Overnight, it was upgraded to Cat three and the National Hurricane Center says there is an enhanced risk of severe weather, especially tornadoes, over eastern North Carolina today.

Here are the 5 AM EDT Thursday, September 5 Key Messages for Hurricane #Dorian, See below for links to emergency shelters, state emergency management centers and updated reports.

Key messages Hurricane Dorian

 

Tuesday 9/3 Update

Hurricane Dorian

For evacuation orders and routes, shelters and more check:

See our Friday update for tracking and weather coverage.

Monday 9/2 update

Hurricane Dorian is battering the Bahamas, wreaking severe damage. It accelerated to a Cat 5 Hurricane as it approached the Bahamas and has slowed to a high Cat 4 with winds in excess of 155mph. It is hovering over the Bahamas today and slowly making its way to the US coast, expected to reach Florida tonight.

While predictions are that the storm’s probable path will veer to the east, the path could change. Right now, it is expected to hug the coast from Florida up through the Carolinas. In an 11 am key messages, the National Hurricane Advisory says that life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected along the Florida east coast and Georgia coast, regardless of the trajectory. Heavy rains capable;e of life-threatening floods are expected over coastal sections of the Southeast and lower Mid-Atlantic through Friday.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina is monitoring.

Florida’s evacuation and curfew orders

Florida Emergency Shelter information

chart - what to bring to an emergency shelter

Georgia: A mandatory evacuation order is in effect for individuals living east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties due to Hurricane Dorian. Contraflow of I-16 will begin at 8:00 am Tuesday morning.

Georgia EMA Twitter and Facebook

South Carolina: Governor Orders Mandatory Evacuations for Coastal Counties Effective September 2 at Noon

SC EMD on Twitter and Facebook

North Carolina Hurricane Dorian information

NC Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook

Friday August 30 posting 

As we approach the Labor Day weekend, Florida is under a state of emergency as Hurricane Dorian approaches. Today, the storm is a Category 2, but weather experts warn that it holds the potential to develop into a Category 4 when it hits land. It’s still early to project, but landfall is expected late Monday or Tuesday. Everyone is on standby.

We’re deploying resources in a Hurricane Toolkit as a just-in-case. September is National Preparedness Month and, remember, hurricane season lasts thorough November so it’s a handy bookmark. We’ll be keeping an eye on things over the weekend and may add to the resources if evacuations or other emergency measures are needed.

Florida Emergency Resources

FloridaDisaster.org (Division of Emergency Management) is the single best source for information. See specific information on Emergency Information for Hurricane Dorian. You can also visit the sister site for commercial businesses: FloridaDisaster.Biz

On social media, you can find updates from the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT) on Twitter and on Facebook

US Coast Guard Southeast on Twitter and on Facebook

Florida Power Tracker

Florida Department of Education – Hurricane Dorian

Florida 511 APP – Get up-to-the-minute, real-time traffic conditions and incident information for the State of Florida with Florida 511 app.

Florida Storms APP – Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

FEMA App

Hurricane Dorian – tracking & live weather coverage

Hurricane Prep & Checklists

Insurance Information Institute: What to do when a hurricane threatens
When the storm approaches, don’t get caught with your windows down

Insurance Information Institute: Hurricane Awareness
Hurricanes can shatter lives as well as damage property. Fortunately there are steps you can take to minimize a hurricane’s impact.

Insurance Information Institute: Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan
Disaster readiness will help keep you and your family safe and secure

Red Cross – Hurricane Safety Checklist

FEMA: How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Common sense advice …Before and after a hurricane

Hurricane Preparation Checklist To Protect Your Technology

Taking Care of your pets during hurricanes & floods

FDA Offers Tips about Medical Devices and Hurricane Disasters

Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods

Red Cross Free Emergency Apps – includes a hurricane app, first aid, and many other useful apps.

Heat wave: How to keep your cool


cartoon of melting monster in a heat wave

Are you ready for the upcoming heat wave? More than 170 million people in the US are now under heat alerts for the coming weekend. Excessive heat is not just an unpleasant nuisance – it can be downright dangerous. The CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, more than 700 people died!

Take steps to prepare and plan for the weekend ahead. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from experts on how to minimize the effects of the heat.

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
  • Take it easy – avoid strenuous activity in the heat.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the early or late part of the day. Stay indoors and out of the sun in the heat of the day.
  • If you don’t have AC, plan activities in public places that are cool: movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls and other air conditioned public or entertainment places. Make a trip to your favorite local swimming hole or pool to beat the heat, but keep an eye out for thunderstorms and make sure you use sunscreen.
  • If you can’t get to a pool, take cool showers or bath. Splash yourself with cool water or soak your feet and ankles in cool water. Apply cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol intake low – while it might make you think you feel better, alcohol is actually dehydrating. Plain water is the best.
  • Wear loose, cool, light-colored clothing. If you go outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen!
  • Eat light, easily digestible dinners. Be careful about salty foods. Avoid using ovens or appliances that generate heat. If you cook, use a microwave or outdoor grill.
  • Take care of your pets – don’t let them get overheated or dehydrated.
  • Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors to make sure they are OK.
  • If your power goes out, check with local emergency services to find emergency cooling centers.
  • Never, never, never leave children or pets in a car alone – even for a few minutes.
  • Know the symptoms of and watch out for heat-related illnesses.

Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention. It’s nothing to fool around with.

chart with heat illness symptoms

Hurricane Season 2019: What’s shaping up


2019 hurricane season infographic

The 2019 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and runs through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts a 40% chance of a  “near normal” hurricane season. There’s a 30% chance that the season could be worse, and a 30% chance that it could be better than the average season.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

But don’t let the “near normal” prediction lull you into a false sense of security – hurricane preparation is still urgent, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. According to a recent Storm Surge Report by CoreLogic, the Atlantic hurricane season puts 7.3 million homes at risk with an estimated reconstruction cost of $1.8 trillion.

“Florida stands out as the most vulnerable state, with more than three times more homes at risk (2,913,886) than second-ranked Louisiana (827,032). Florida also stands out in terms of potential damage, with at-risk structures having an estimated reconstruction cost of $604 billion — a third of the total for all 19 Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast states.

Narrowing down to metropolitan areas, Miami, New York City, Tampa, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Virginia hold the greatest risks. In the New York City metro area, which includes Philadelphia and much of New Jersey, 831,000 homes with estimated replacement costs of $330 billion stand in harm’s way. In the Miami metropolitan area, which includes West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 827,000 homes are at risk with an estimated replacement cost of $166 billion.”

Florida hurricane prep underway – get tax-free hurricane supplies through June 6!

Florida doesn’t take hurricanes lightly. The Orlando Sentinel posts thoughts from the region and talks about past storms in their news report,  Welcome to hurricane season 2019.

Floridians should act quickly for a discount on some hurricane supplies. Through June 6, certain hurricane supplies can be purchased tax-free during Florida sales tax holiday. Learn more from the Florida Department of Revenue’s Tax Information Publication:   Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday – May 31 through June 6, 2019

Hurricane Prep resources

 

Reminder: Hurricane season continues through November


hurricane seen from space

All eyes are on the eastern seaboard as Hurricane Florence bears down upon southern states. As of right now, forecasters don’t expect any direct impact on New England, but we’re all watching North Carolina and South Carolina, where widespread mandatory evacuations are in place, the largest peace time evacuation the country has seen. This is predicted to be a multiple-day prolonged flooding event with 12-foot storm surge. See the fascinating infographic on storm surges below, courtesy of CoreLogic.

If you have friends or relatives in affected areas or are just a storm tracker, here are a few resources: Tracking Hurricane Florence: The Weather Channel • Twitter • New York Times
The National Weather Service: Hurricane and Tropical Storm Watches, Warnings, Advisories and Outlooks • Hurricane Preparedness  • Red Cross: Hurricane Safety

While New England folks may dodge this bullet, remember that hurricane season lasts from June through November.

infographic on hurricane strom surge