Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hurricane Preparedness Day 7 Taking Action

It is important to remember that after the storm can be just as dangerous as before.  Downed power lines and trees can leave you isolated.  Flooded roadways can be dangerous to drive though, and often contain toxins harmful for human contact.  Try to practice caution when recovering from a hurricane, which occur in the summer months when temperatures can be dangerously hot and humid.  Remember to stay hydrated and not overexert yourself trying to clean up after a hurricane.  Don’t forget pets too, they feel the effects of hot temperatures often quicker than their human owners.  Have enough clean drinking water for them and your family.   For more information watch this video from the National Hurricane Center:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Get a Plan! Preparedness Day 6

During a hurricane Richmond residents will likely be told to shelter in place rather than evacuate, unless you live in a low lying area near the James River.  Sheltering in place and avoid traveling during the storm is advised.  Having a plan to shelter in place and a family communication plan is critical to being prepared.  Often major storms can impact or overwhelm communications infrastructure, making it difficult to call and communicate to your loved ones locally.  Consider identifying a friend or relative out of town that family members can call and check in with to report their safety and well being.  Oftentimes it is easier to make a call out of the impacted area than it is to make calls locally.  Also consider having a plan to be self sufficient at home for 72 hours or 3 days without electricity. 

Watch this video from the National Hurricane Center on planning for hurricane season:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

After the Forecast Hurricane Preparedness Day 5

 Forecasts are what local emergency managers rely on, the accuracy and detail matter a great deal to the decisions made at the local level.  For hurricanes, advancements in technology allows forecasters to predict where the storm will make landfall and what intensity.   Once the storm begins approaching and the path is becoming more defined, watches and warnings will be issued for the impacted areas.  Local Emergency Management Offices begin monitoring the information soon after these storms form.  Coordination occurs with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and neighboring emergency management organizations.  Once it is apparent that the storm will impact the Richmond area, the City takes steps to mitigate potential issues as well as notify residents of what to expect and how to prepare for their families.  Widespread power outages are expected with large storms such as hurricanes, and preparedness is centered on what you would need to shelter in place for three days with no electricity.  With any storm it is important to follow local forecasts and be aware of the expected or potential impact.  Follow instructions given by local officials on how to protect yourself and your family.  

Watch this video from the National Hurricane Center on forecasting hurricanes:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hurricane Preparedness Day 4 Inland Flooding

Flooding is the most common hazard for the City of Richmond, and can happen as the result of many types of weather events.  Overland flooding occurs when a waterway such as the James River overflows its banks.  Flash flooding occurs within a few minutes of heavy rainfall and often comes with little to no warning time.  Localized flooding can occur as a result from drainage of storm water and exists on a much smaller scale than flash and overland. 

All types of flooding should be taken seriously.  Never underestimate the potential damage or harm that a flood can cause.  A foot of water can float most vehicles so avoid driving through flooded roadways.  Also do not walk through flood waters as they often contain harmful chemicals or debris that could potentially cause injury.  

Check out this video from the National Hurricane Center on Inland Flooding:

Try these flood risk scenarios for more on your risk for experiencing a flood and visit for more information on how to prepare. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hurricane Preparedness Day 3 Wind

Wind damage can result from a variety of significant weather events not just hurricanes.  Strong winds are a characteristic of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and nor’easters making wind damage is a year round risk for the Richmond area.  During a storm that has the potential for strong winds it is important to remember how to stay safe:
  •  If  indoors, move away from windows and go to the your buildings lowest level
  •  If outdoors, seek shelter immediately
  • If in a mobile home, leave and take shelter in a sturdier building
  • If driving, pull of the road away from trees and utility poles which have the potential to fall

Also don’t attempt to move downed power lines and report them to the power company.  Take precaution removing any downed trees from your property and seek professional assistance if able.  Check out this video from the National Hurricane Center to learn more about wind damage:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hurricane Preparedness Day 2 Storm Surge

Today’s theme for Hurricane Preparedness Week is Storm Surge.  While storm surge does not impact Richmond, it does impact the coastal and tidewater areas of the state where many people vacation during the summer months which coincides with hurricane season.  Check out this video from NOAA on Storm Surge: 

Even though Richmond does not face the potential harm of storm surge, flooding is an issue with the proximity to the James River.  The tidal portion of the James River begins in Richmond and Wednesday's preparedness theme will address inland flooding so make sure you check back to find out about more about this hazard.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kick Off to Hurricane Preparedness Week

Today starts the week long National Hurricane Preparedness Campaign. Each day will feature a different topic ending with the start of Hurricane season on June 1st.  Last June our Office kicked off hurricane season with the publication of our first newsletter, which soon transitioned into this blog.  Check out our first newsletter here.  The first day of Hurricane Preparedness Week starts with the basics of hurricanes, watch this video from the National Hurricane Center:

Do you know what you need to be prepared for hurricane season?  Consider starting by making a supply kit.  What items would your family need to shelter in place for 72 hours with no electricity?  Food and water are likely the first and very basic needs to stock.  Stocking non-perishable nutritious foods and one gallon of potable water per person per day for 3 days will be a great way to start building an emergency supply kit.  Start by adding a few extra grocery items each trip, by doing this will lessen the financial burden.  Additionally, remember that even non-perishable food and water have expiration dates so remember to check your kit regularly and replace items as needed. 

Other items to include in your emergency supply kit

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charge

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tornado’s Not Just a Hazard for the Midwest

The news tells the tragic tales of powerful storms that ravage entire communities leaving the residents mourning the loss of loved ones among piles of debris which was once described home.   It is easy to separate what is on the news, particularly when imagining these tornado stricken communities as being far-removed with the ‘it will never happen here’ mentality.  While tornado’s happen with more frequency in the Midwest than in Central Virginia, history indicates that between the years 1950 and 2007 a total of 8 tornados have occurred within the City of Richmond, an average of one tornado every seven years.  One of the most notable and strongest tornados to impact the area occurred in June of 1951.  This powerful F3[1]  touched down near Byrd Park and traversed the Fan crossing Broad Street at Belvidere.  The tornado traveled into the City’s Northside near Brookland Park Boulevard, a total of four miles.  Luckily no deaths occurred as a result of this storm but 100 people were left homeless and 1,000 buildings were damaged, totaling 1 million dollars. 
In October of 2010, the City’s Northside experienced another less powerful tornado which was classified as an EF 01.  The tornado touched down near North Boulevard and traveled northwest 11 miles into Hanover County.  More than 100 structures were damaged and several homes were destroyed.   No deaths were associated with this tornado. 
Both of these storms are an example of the risk Richmond residents face when it comes to these powerful storms.  Consider if the 1951 tornado happened today, the impact would be much larger due to the development of the area, population increase, and the dense commuter pedestrian and vehicular traffic. 
If you find yourself in a situation where a tornado is threatening it is important to know how to react.  If outside when the tornado occurs, try and seek shelter in a nearby sturdy building.  If you are unable to get to a sturdy building or safely drive to one, stay in your vehicle with the windows and doors shut with your seat belt on and cover your head with your arms.   If it is possible to get lower than the roadway leave your car and lie in that area.  It is not safe to get under an overpass or bridge.  If in a structure during a tornado go to a small interior room on the lowest floor if possible.  Stay away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls and put as many walls possible between you and the outside.  If in a manufactured building get out immediately and seek shelter in sturdy building.    

[1] The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) replaced original Fujita Scale(F Scale) in 2007 assigns a rating based on estimated wind speed and related damage.