Friday Fotos with a Dangerous Twist

May 31, 2013

Tornado AlleyAs we post this the U.S. has been dealing with multiple tornadoes touching down across the central plains. Spring and early summer are typically the most active months (esp. across Tornado Alley) and, to be honest, 2013 has been fairly quiet … until the past few weeks.

America has more tornado sightings than any other place in the world and averages about 1,300 tornadoes each year. And tornadoes happen year round across the continental U.S.

Although twisters are dangerous and potentially deadly, they also have a certain type of beauty that makes one appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

Below are some fascinating tornado pics for this week’s Friday Fotos segment…

tornado nguyen via nasa pod

Tornado and Rainbow Over Kansas Image Credit & Copyright: Eric Nguyen (Oklahoma U.) via NASA

NASA Explanation: The scene might have been considered serene if it weren’t for the tornado. During 2004 in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light — the light of a rainbow. Pictured above, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over the rainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds.

tornado moore ok Nicholas Rutledge via National Geographic Your Shot
Photograph by Nicholas Rutledge via National Geographic Your Shot

NatGeo Explanation: Nicholas Rutledge snapped this picture of the devastating May 2013 tornado as it gathered strength in Newcastle, Oklahoma. It later intensified before smashing through suburbs surrounding Oklahoma City, including the city of Moore.

tornado South Dakota EF3 Tornado / Photograph by Carsten Peter via NatGeo

South Dakota EF3 Tornado / Photograph by Carsten Peter via NatGeo

oldest tornado photo per noaa

Above is one of the oldest known photographs of a tornado per NOAA. It is probable this image has been “doctored” from the original. Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection Location: South Dakota, 22 miles southwest of Howard Photo Date: August 28, 1884

tornado photo by noaa

Our favorite photo by NOAA

As we mentioned in our Tornadoes don’t usually happen in December … or do they? post, the most important thing to do year round wherever you live is to pay attention to forecasts, keep a NOAA Weather Radio handy when nasty weather is brewing, and learn what to do before, during and after various types of emergencies and disasters.

Feel free to download and share some free preparedness and safety tips about tornadoes, flooding, evacuations and more from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book

Our thoughts are with all those dealing with and recovering from the intense storms … and hope everyone has a nice, safe weekend, j & B

Hurricanes 101 (hurricane basics and resources)

May 29, 2013

hurricanes101-nhpw2013The National Weather Service launches it’s annual Hurricane Preparedness Week during the last week of May so we felt this was a good time to share some information about hurricanes in general.

The Seasons

As mentioned in our May 2013 enews, experts are predicting an active 2013 Atlantic season with 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. A typical Atlantic hurricane season averages 12 named storms, 6.5 hurricanes, and two major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). Some experts are even predicting a few storms may strike the northeast (like Sandy did last fall) since conditions are similar to the 1950s.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, 1 of which is classified as a major hurricane. And, while hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depressions also can be devastating.

The Pacific Hurricane Season runs from May 15th through November 30th (with peak season being July to September), and the Atlantic Hurricane Season starts June 1st ending November 30th (with peak season being mid-August to late October).

However, there have been instances where tropical storms and hurricanes have formed in May and December, plus typhoons and cyclones happen during other months in different parts of the world so our planet’s oceans stay active most of the year.

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with torrential rains and winds of 74 – 155 miles per hour (120 – 250 km/h) or faster. These winds blow in a counter-clockwise direction (or clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere) around a center “eye”. The “eye” is usually 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) wide, and the storm may be spread out as far as 400 miles (640 km)!

As the hurricane approaches the coast, a huge dome of water (called a storm surge) will crash into the coastline.

Hurricanes can also cause tornadoes, heavy rains and flooding along the impacted coastlines as well as far into the mainland states.

Did you know…

…the deadliest hurricane (cyclone) on record struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), flooding the low lying areas?! At least 500,000 deaths are blamed on the November 13, 1970 storm, with some estimates rising as high as 1 million.

hurricanes101-katrina-destruction…the deadliest U.S. hurricane was the Great Galveston category 4 hurricane on September 8, 1900 that caused at least 8,000 deaths on the Texas coast?!

…the costliest U.S. hurricane was Katrina (category 3) in 2005 that impacted Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee causing over $105 billion according to NOAA?! Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy is second costliest at about $50 billion.

…the 2005 U.S. season broke records with 27 named storms (previous record was 21 in 1933) and 15 hurricanes (previous record was 12 in 1969). The National Hurricane Center states this cycle could last 10-20 more years similar to the above-average activity from the 1940s through the 1960s.

…9 out of 10 hurricane deaths are due to storm surge (a rise in the sea level caused by strong winds). Storm surges can get up to 20 feet (6 m) high and 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 km) wide!

…the northeast part (or right front quadrant) of a hurricane typically has the strongest winds and highest storm surge?! If it’s high tide when the storm slams ashore you could have serious problems.

Hurricane basics

The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon.

Each year, an average of 11 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean and never impact the U.S. coastline. About six of these storms become hurricanes each year.

In an average 3-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the US coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes (a category 3 or higher storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Hurricanes are classed into five categories based on wind speeds, central pressure, and damage potential. The chart below is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with sustained wind speeds and examples of damage (in italics) provided by NOAA:

Category 1   (74-95 mph / 119-153 km/h)  Dangerous winds will produce some damage (Untied mobile homes, vegetation & signs)

Category 2  (96-110 mph / 154-177 km/h )  Extremely dangerous winds / extensive damage (All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, floods)

Category 3  (111-129 mph / 178-208 km/h)  Devastating damage will occur (Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off)

Category 4 (130-156 mph / 209-251 km/h)  Catastrophic damage will occur (Roofs and mobile homes destroyed, trees down, beach homes flooded)

Category 5 (> 156 mph / >251 km/h) Catastrophic damage will occur (Most buildings and vegetation destroyed, major roads cut off, homes flooded)

Naming a hurricane

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and now maintained and updated by an International committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only women’s names until 1979, when men’s and women’s names were alternated. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2001 list will be used again in 2007. The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate and the name is retired by the WMO. Retiring a name means it cannot be reused for at least 10 years.

NatGeo vid “Hurricanes 101”

This short video further explains hurricanes, and scroll down to find more resources.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013

As mentioned above, National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013 runs from May 26 to June 1. The National Hurricane Center has posted 7 Public Service Announcements (both Youtube videos and audio files in English and Spanish) with a specific topic designated for each day of the week.

hurricanes 101-national hurricane preparedness week 2013

PSA topics include: Hurricane Basics, Storm Surge, Winds, Inland Flooding, Forecast Process, Get A Plan! and After the Storm. Learn more and find other resources and tools from NHC at to help educate your family and community.

Additional Resources:

Tips about Flooding, Tornadoes and more (from our IT’S A DISASTER! book)

NOAA Tropical Cyclones Preparedness Guide (12 pg PDF)

Florida’s Foundation “Make Mitigation Happen” (21-pg PDF for FL but could help most everyone)

National Hurricane Center

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (Hurricane page)

Bounce Energy Hurricane preparedness guide and resources page

How Stuff Works: How Hurricanes Work

USA Today Resources: Hurricanes

Remember our Nation’s Heroes this Memorial Day

May 24, 2013

memorial dayMemorial Day is a day of remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

Communities around the country will be holding events all weekend from parades to memorials to honor those who have died in military service. And many volunteers including active duty military, Boy Scout troops, American Legions and others will show their respect for the fallen by placing a small flag on each grave in 146 national cemeteries across America.

For example, each year for the past 40 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) has honored America’s fallen heroes with the “Flags In” tradition by placing American flags before the 260,000 gravestones and 7,300 niches of service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery just prior to Memorial Day.

memorial day 3d Infantry Regiment Flags-in tradition at Arlington Cemetery

memorial day flags in ceremony arlington cemetary army photo klinton smith

Below: A mourner, believed to be Air Force Reserve Captain Teresa Dutcher, lies at the grave of her son Corporal Michael Avery Pursel at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. She visited the cemetery at the conclusion of the “Flags In” event on May 24, 2012 per PDN.

Photo by Jemal Countess Flags In Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

© Jemal Countess/Redux via PDN

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but has never been officially named. The tomb guards are soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment. It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Fewer than 20 percent of all volunteers are accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards. One of the most solemn ceremonies that occurs at the Tomb of the Unknowns is where the president or his designee lays a wreath to mark the national observance of Memorial Day.

memorial day Tomb of the Unknowns

An amazing photo that went viral a few years ago was taken by amateur photographer Frank Glick was on his way to work. He drove through Fort Snelling National Cemetery early one morning and spotted a bald eagle through the mist, perched on a gravestone, and snapped shots with his aging but ever-present camera, according to the Star Tribune. An acquaintance saw the photo and suggested that he see if the deceased soldier had any living relatives who might want it. Indeed, Maurice Ruch’s widow was alive and well and delighted to receive a copy of the eagle watching over her beloved husband.

Frank Glick photo of eagle on headstone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery

 Words cannot properly express the gratitude for all those who have sacrificed so much… but please remember to take a moment this long weekend to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.

memorial day thank you

Stay safe,  j & B

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month

May 22, 2013

May is celiac awareness monthAs some of you may know, Bill has been battling many serious health issues over the past 17+ years, and one of the core underlying problems is he has Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) Disease.

And since May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, we wanted to pass along some information about this hereditary disease in case it can help others.

For those of you not familiar with Celiac Disease (a.k.a. CD or celiac sprue), it’s a genetic issue and it’s not contagious.

villi damage in small intestine due to celiac disease image by Mayo FdnBasically if Bill ingests any type of gluten, his immune system creates antibodies that attack and damage or destroy the villi lining the small intestine so his body cannot properly absorb basic nutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and, in some cases, water and bile salts.

Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in ALL forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, Kamut®, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and triticale and MUST be eliminated.

Even tiny traces of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. And, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.

Did you know…

  • Celiac Disease is NOT a food allergy – it is an autoimmune disease. Food allergies, including wheat allergy, are conditions that people can sometimes grow out of. This is not the case with Celiac Disease.
  • according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 out of 133 people in the U.S. are affected with celiac disease?
  • the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness says about 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed?
  • CD is a hereditary disease and occurs in 5% to 22% of the offspring and siblings of a person with the disease.

Symptoms and complications

Celiac disease can appear at any time in a person’s life according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. In adults, the disease can be triggered for the first time after surgery, viral infection, severe emotional stress, pregnancy or childbirth. CD is a multi-system, multi-symptom disorder. Symptoms vary and are not always gastrointestinal (GI). GI symptoms can often mimic other bowel disorders.

celiac disease symptoms chart by glutendudeMost people with the disease have similar symptoms or issues although some people with CD have no symtoms at all. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation (or both). It may also cause irritability or depression, anemia, joint pain, muscle cramps, skin rash (or small red bumps), mouth sores, dental and bone disorders, tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy), general weakness and fatigue, weight loss and stunted growth (in children).

Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.

And the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness explains undiagnosed celiac disease left untreated can increase your risk of other problems like osteoporosis, infertility, thyroid disease and T-cell lymphoma or other cancers.

No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease by changing your diet.

Celiac disease versus gluten-intolerance

There is a big difference between people suffering with celiac disease and those who are gluten-intolerant. If someone with CD ingests a tiny amount of gluten it will trigger their immune system causing damage in their small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Basically it could set them back weeks or months since it takes time for the villi to repair itself and the inflammation to tamp down.

On the other hand, if someone who is gluten-intolerant (a.k.a. non-celiac gluten sensitivity or NCGS) ingests gluten they may experience discomfort like bloating, diarrhea or abdominal pain, but it does not damage their small intestine.

Read ALL labels and not just food stuffs

When a loved one is diagnosed with celiac disease you diligently begin reading ingredient lists on everything. We were shocked how many canned, bottled, processed, packaged, frozen, dried and ready-made foods or sauces have gluten in them.

Not only do you need to watch for things with wheat, barley, malt or rye … but things like flavorings, dextrin, caramel coloring, HVP, etc. may be questionable depending on what countries they were made in or what ingredients are used. And oats are an issue since they may have been cross-contaminated with wheat during growing, harvesting and processing.

Also realize just because somethings says it’s “Gluten Free” doesn’t mean it is. The product could have been processed or packaged on shared equipment or in a facility that also processes wheat or other gluten products. Even though manufacturers clean machines, gluten can get down into little crevices and it is airborne.

GFCO logoBut there are products that are packaged and processed in dedicated, gluten-free facilities or adhere to the Celiac Sprue Association (or GFCO or QAI and NFCA) standards to obtain a certified GF seal or label. But even those products can have minute traces of 5 to 10 parts per million when tested for wheat.

The best alternative is to avoid processed foods altogether and make your own meals at home so you’ll know exactly what’s in them! We currently do that although there are some GF products we use in our preparedness kits, stores and snacks.

Also, be aware there are non-food products that may contain gluten like…

  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Lipstick, lip gloss or balm
  • Soaps, bath salts
  • Lotions and creams
  • Vitamins and prescription drugs
  • Hair products (some shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Cleaning products
  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • Stamps, envelopes, stickers
  • Chewing gum and many types of candy
  • Communion wafers
  • Pet food
  • Art supplies (e.g. paints, glue, clay) or play-dough

And of course beer, grain alcohols and the list goes on. Many companies and restaurants are offering gluten-free products but again, always check labels and/or ask the manufacturers’ websites or chefs if products are made or packaged on shared equipment, cooking surfaces, etc.

Learn more

Below are just a few examples of reputable sites to learn about Celiac Disease and gluten-intolerance symptoms, risk factors, tests and diagnosis techniques, support groups and more. And remember, if you or someone you know has or possibly has CD, please encourage family members to talk to their physician or learn more about the disease and risks.

Celiac Disease Foundation
Celiac Support Association (has a forum, GF mall, etc.)
Mayo Clinic’s Celiac disease section
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)
NIH’s National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse


How to help others when disaster strikes

May 21, 2013

Moore Oklahoma tornado aftermath Photo: Nick Oxford-NYTSome of this appeared in our IT’S A DISASTER! .. Now what? post last summer (along with resources about the disaster declaration process, how to get assistance, etc.) … but in light of the recent disasters we’re sharing it again.

The images of disasters pull on people’s heartstrings causing those outside of the impacted area to want to do something to help. Unfortunately, sometimes this kindness overwhelms agencies and organizations trying to coordinate relief efforts so please review the following general guidelines on helping others after a disaster.

Some things you CAN do…

  • Donate money to a recognized voluntary agency since it is the single best way to help disaster survivors. Cash doesn’t need to be sorted, stored or distributed, and it allows the voluntary agency to use the donation towards the needs that most urgently need addressing. The funds can also help stimulate the local economy. Your entire donation goes towards the disaster relief since these organizations raise money for overhead expenses through separate fund drives.  A few examples of how to donate include…
  • The Salvation Army: Donate online (or learn about other Ways to Give)
  • American Red Cross: Donate online (scroll down page to see various causes)
  • Learn what to say (and not say) to victims of disaster. Check out “Loss: What to Say After the Flood, Earthquake, or Disaster from Grief Expert Aurora Winter” on PRnewswire
  • Donate blood or organize a blood drive.

tornado damage in Moore OK Photo: Paul Hellstern - The Oklahoman

Some things you DON’T want to do…

  • Don’t show up unannounced with unsolicited goods (things like clothing, miscellaneous household items, mixed or perishable foodstuffs, diapers, etc). Critical resources will be redirected from the important work of response and relief to managing what often becomes a crush of unneeded donated items.
  • Always work with a relief agency to confirm what items are needed. Do not begin collecting, packing or shipping until you have a known recipient who will accept the donation.
  • If your company wants to donate emergency supplies, donate a quantity of a given item or class of items (such as nonperishable food) rather than a mix of different items. Also, find out where donation is going, how it’s going to get there, who’s going to unload it and how it will be distributed. Without good planning, much needed supplies will be left unused.
  • If you want to volunteer your services after a disaster, listen to local news reports for information about where volunteers are needed. Please STAY AWAY from disaster areas until volunteers are specifically requested!
  • If you are needed in a disaster area, bring your own food, water and emergency supplies. This is especially important in cases where a large area has been hit since these items may be in short supply.
  • Don’t drive down to a disaster site to gawk. People who go into areas to see the destruction make it harder for everyone working to clean it up and for the people who live there.

For information on other ways to help visit

Also download some free preparedness topics from our IT’S A DISASTER!…and what are YOU gonna do about it? book about dealing with tornadoes, floods, evacuations, wildfires and more … and please share them and this post with others.

Friday Fotos: Nazca Lines (Mysterious Geoglyphs in Peru)

May 17, 2013

Nazca imagesAccording to the Nazca lines are enormous geoglyphs in arid coastal Peru that cover an estimated 170 square miles (450 square kilometers). Thousands of geoglyphs include creatures from the natural world and the human imagination.

National Geographic explains the drawings on the ground are made by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image. The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Because there’s so little rain, wind and erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for 500 to 2000 years.

Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguar, monkey, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across per Wikipedia.

The vast majority of the lines date from 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region. The earliest lines, created with piled up stones, date as far back as 500 BC. says no one knows why the prehistoric Nazca culture went through the effort of making the geoglyphs, though they may have had a ritual role or linked up to constellations in the sky. Another idea is that the lines play a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a sacred place such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids. Yet another idea is that the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals.

Whatever the case… the Nazca Lines are fascinating and mysterious.

Nazca Spiral


nazca hummingbird

Photo: LiveScience

Nazca monkey

Photo: Wikipedia

nazca figures


nazca spider


Have a great weekend everyone! j & B

Friday Fotos: Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse

May 10, 2013

ring of fire eclipse from hinode satellite 2012On May 9 and 10, 2013 millions of sky-gazers saw the spectacle of a lifetime as a “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse crossed the Pacific from Asia to the United States.

According to the eclipse was best seen in remote parts of western Australia, where the moon covered most — but not all — of the sun, leaving a spectacular ring of light around the lunar silhouette.

Because the eclipse’s path crossed the International Dateline, it began in Australia on Friday, May 10, local time, but ended late Thursday, May 9.

Below are a few pics from the recent 2013 event and above and last shot are from the May 2012 eclipse. Enjoy!

composite image ring of file eclipse by mike hancock 2013

Gorgeous composite image by Mike Hancock Cape York, Australia via io9

ring of fire eclipse 2013 credit Coca-Cola Space Science Center Columbus State University

Annular solar eclipse of May 9, 2013 in Australia. CREDIT: Coca-Cola Space Science Center/Columbus State University via

ring of fire solar eclipse 2012

Annular eclipse (moon not large enough to obscure entire disc of Sun) photographed at sunset in eastern New Mexico on 20 May 2012 via wikimedia

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂  j & B

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