Tag Archives: Meteorology

Tornado: What You Should Know

After what I thought was a quiet spring, we have experienced a horrific tornado in Oklahoma with more than 50 killed. Loss of life from disasters, both natural and man-made, is an ever-present danger, and we must be prepared to deal with these issues are they present. Given the unpredictable nature of these calamities, it is more important now than ever to be prepared to deal with injuries. Medical preparedness has never been more important.

There are few people who haven’t been in the path of a major storm at one point or another. If you fail to plan ways to protect yourself and your family, you may find yourself having to treat significant traumatic injuries in the immediate aftermath. Later, flooding may contaminate your water supplies and expose you to serious infectious disease. Preparing to weather the storm safely will avoid major medical problems for you, in your role as survival medic, later on.

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and the thunderstorm (sometimes called a “supercell”) that spawned it. From a distance, tornadoes usually appear in the form of a visible dark funnel with all sorts of flying debris in and around it. Because of rainfall, they may be difficult to see when close up. A tornado (also called a “twister”) may have winds of up to 300 miles per hour, and can travel for a number of kilometers or miles before petering out. They may be accompanied by hail and will emit a roaring sound that will remind you of a passing train (I can tell you this is true by personal experience). There are almost a thousand tornadoes in the United States every year, more than are reported in any other country. Most of these occur in Tornado Alley, an area that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and neighboring states. Spring and early summer are the peak seasons.

Injuries from tornadoes usually come as a result of trauma from all the flying debris that is carried along with it. Strong winds can carry large objects and fling them around in a manner that is hard to believe; Indeed, there is a report that, in 1931, an 83 ton train was lifted and thrown 80 feet from the tracks.

Tornadoes are categorized by something called the Fujita Scale, from level 0-5, based on the amount of damage caused:

•F0 Light: broken tree branches, mild structural damage, some uprooted
•F1 Moderate: broken windows, small tree trunks broken, overturned mobile homes, destruction of carports or toolsheds, roof tiles missing
•F2 Considerable: mobile homes destroyed, major structural damage to frame homes due to flying debris, some large trees snapped in half or uprooted
•F3 Severe: Roofs torn from homes, small frame homes destroyed, most trees snapped and uprooted
•F4 Devastating: strong structure building damaged or destroyed or lifted from foundations, cars lifted and blown away, even large debris airborne
•F5 Incredible: larger building lifted from foundations, trees snapped, uprooted and debarked, multi-ton debris becomes airborne missiles

Although some places may have sirens or other methods of warning you of an approaching twister, it is important to have a plan for your family to weather the storm. Having a plan before a tornado approaches is the most likely way you will survive the event. Children should be taught where to find the medical kits and, if possible, how to turn off gas and electricity. Giving your loved ones experience in the use of a fire extinguisher and the treatment of injuries would be highly useful as well. Just use the search engine at www.doomandbloom.net for more information on treating wounds and fractures.

If you see a twister funnel, take shelter immediately. If your domicile is a mobile home, leave! They are especially vulnerable to damage from the winds. If you live in a mobile home and there is time, get to the nearest building that has a tornado shelter; underground shelters are best. If you live in Tornado Alley, consider putting together your own underground shelter. Here’s a link on how: http://www.tornadoproject.com/safety/ism2.pdf

Unlike bunkers and other structures built for long-term protection, a tornado shelter has to provide safety for a short period of time. As such, it doesn’t have to be very large; 8-10 square feet per person would be acceptable. Despite this, be sure to consider ventilation and the comfort or special needs of those using the shelter.

If you don’t have a shelter, find a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. Basements, bathrooms, closets or inside rooms without windows are the best options. Windows can easily shatter from impact due to flying debris. For added protection, get under a heavy object such as a sturdy table. Covering up your body with a sleeping bag or mattress will provide an additional shield. Discuss this plan of action with each and every member of your family or group in such a way that they will know this process by heart.

If you’re in a car and can drive to a shelter, do so. Although you may be hesitant to leave your vehicle, remember that they can be easily tossed around by the winds; you may be safer if there is a culvert or other area lower than the roadway. In town, leaving the car to enter a sturdy building is appropriate.If there is no other shelter, your car will protect you from some of the flying debris. Keep your seat beat on, put you head down below the level of the windows, and cover yourself with something.

If you are caught outside when the tornado hits (on a hike, for instance), stay away from wooded areas. Torn branches and other debris become missiles, so an open field or ditch may be safer. Lying down flat in a low spot in the ground will give you some protection. Make sure to cover your head if at all possible, even if it’s just with your hands.

Armed with a plan of action, you will know what to do when you see that funnel cloud or hear that tornado siren. Evaluate your home for weak and strong points, educate your loved ones on the right strategy, and you’ll have a head start on weathering that storm.

Dr. Bones

You many view the original article here: http://www.doomandbloom.net/tornado/

Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Flood Safety

storm surge

Reading about the flood in San Antonio that took the life of 2 women, I realized that I hadn’t written an article about flood safety, other than discussing storm surges during hurricanes.  Yet floods count among the disasters most responsible for loss of human life, both during the event and from the effects of the aftermath.

The definition of a flood is an overflow of water that submerges land which is normally dry.  Flooding may occur as an overflow of water from water bodies, such as a seacoast, river or lake, in which the water runs over or breaks levees, resulting in the escape of large amounts of water into populated areas. It may also occur due to an accumulation of rainwater on saturated ground.

Some floods develop slowly, while others (called “flash” floods), can develop in a very short time and affect areas where it wasn’t even raining.  As a result, it often catches the population downriver by surprise, causing severe damage and loss of life

There are several types of floods:

Areal

Floods can happen on flat or low-lying areas when the ground is saturated and water cannot run off quickly enough to stop accumulating. This may be followed by a river flood as water moves into local waterways. Floods related to rainfall can also occur if water falls on an impenetrable surface, such as concrete, asphalt paving or frozen ground, and cannot rapidly be absorbed into the ground.  In urban areas, it usually takes at least 1 inch (25 mm) of rainfall per hour to start significant ponding of water on impermeable surfaces.

Riverine

Floods happen in rivers when the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends in the waterway. These are some of the most dangerous, as people tend to live and work by rivers due to access to fertile soil, irrigation, and trade routes.

River flows may rise to floods levels at different rates, from a few minutes to several weeks, depending on channel width and the source of the increased flow.

Slow rising floods most commonly occur in large rivers, like the Mississippi, that have large catchment areas. The increase in flow may be the result of sustained rainfall, rapid snow melt, monsoons, or tropical storms.

Coastal

Flooding on the coast is commonly caused by a combination of sea tidal surges caused by winds and low barometric pressure. Coastal areas may be flooded by storm events, such as hurricanes, resulting in waves over-topping seawalls and levees.

johnstown flood

Aftermath of dam collapse in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1889

Failures of infrastructure such as the collapse of a dam may cause catastrophic flooding, as in the
Johnstown, Pennsylvania event in 1889 that took 2,200 lives. Major flooding may also be caused by the effects of an earthquake or volcanic eruption. These events often occur at sea hundreds of miles from the area affected, but result in tidal wave floods called Tsunamis. The penetration of salt water causes widespread failure of fresh water delivery systems and may make farmland unusable, sometimes for many years.  More on tsunamis in a future article.

Flooding often causes a failure of the power grid. Once this happens, the aftermath
of the disaster may have more severe effects than the flood itself. These effects include loss of the water supply due to contamination by sewage. As a result, water-borne illness such as diarrheal disease may take a major toll on the population. Cholera and Typhoid are just some of the diarrheal/dysenteric diseases which may be life-threatening. Other issues include the inability of aid to get to flooded areas and the inundation of farmland causing loss of entire crops.  Some industries may fail, leading to depression in the affected area. Once water and food shortage combine with the inability to receive help and/or make a living, economic collapse and civil unrest are likely to follow.

The scenario above is not purely hypothetical: Disasters related to flooding have sometimes caused millions of short- and long-term casualties. In both 1887 and 1931, major flooding of the Yangtze river in China ended up costing 1-2 and 3-4 million lives, respectively.  If you take out war, famine, and pandemics, flooding is, undeniably, the deadliest of human tragedies.

Most people have heard of hurricane or tornado watches and warnings, but the U.S. weather services also tries to warn the populace of flooding. A “flash flood watch” means that flash flooding is possible in the near future; a “flash flood warning” means that flooding is imminent in the area. Many people ignore these warnings at their own peril.

If you live in a low-lying area, especially near a dam or river, then you should heed warnings when they are given and be prepared to evacuate quickly. Rising flood waters could easily trap you in your home,and you don’t want to have to perch on your roof waiting for help.

Here are some flood safety tips:

Get Out Early

Make the decision to leave for higher ground before extensive ponding occurs.

Be Careful Walking Through Flowing Water

Drowning is the most common cause of death during a flood, especially a flash flood. Wilderness experts know that rapidly-moving water can knock you off your feet even if not that deep.

Don’t Drive Through a Flooded Area

As many people drown in their cars as anywhere else. Cars stall and roads/bridges could easily be washed out. Try to figure out now if there is a “high road” to safety, before a flood occurs.

Beware Of Downed Power Lines

Electrical current is easily conducted through water. Watch for downed power lines; you don’t have to touch them to be electrocuted, only step in the water they’re in.

downed power line

Turn Off The Power

If you have reason to believe that water will get into your home, turn off the electricity. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have completely dried. You might have to take some apart to clean debris out of them.

Watch Out For Intruders

Critters that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Snakes, raccoons, and other unfriendly creatures may decide your home is now their territory.  Human
intruders may also be interested in your property.

Look Before You Step

After a flood, watch where you step; there is debris everywhere. The floors of your home may be covered in mud, causing a slip-and-fall hazard.

Check for Gas Leaks

Don’t use candles, lanterns, stoves, or lighters unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been well-ventilated.

Exhaust Fumes Can Kill!

Only use generators, camping stoves or charcoal grills outside. Their fumes can be deadly.

Clean Out Saturated Items Completely

Floodwaters are not clean! Don’t use floodwater as drinking water or to cook food unless you have thoroughly sterilized and filtered it. Make sure you have food storage in waterproof containers.

Floods are just one of the many natural disasters that can endanger your family.  Pay close attention to storm and flood warnings and you’ll have a head start on keeping them safe.

Dr. Bones

The Original Article may be found here: http://www.doomandbloom.net/flood-safety/

Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

This is a guest post by Joe Alton, M.D., and Amy Alton, A.R.N.P., aka Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy of www.doomandbloom.net