Tsunami safety tips + resources for #Tsunami Preparedness week (Mar 23-29, 2014)

March 23, 2014

Photo: Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters A tsunami [soo-nah´-mee] is a series of huge, destructive waves caused by an undersea disturbance from an earthquake, volcano, landslide, or even a meteorite.

As the waves approach the shallow coastal waters, they appear normal and the speed decreases. Then, as the tsunami nears the coastline, it turns into a gigantic, forceful wall of water that smashes into the shore with speeds exceeding 600 miles per hour (965 km/h)!

Usually tsunamis are about 20 feet (6 m) high, but extreme ones can get as high as 100 feet (30 m) or more!

A tsunami is a series of waves and the first wave may not be the largest one, plus the danger can last for many hours after the first wave hits. During the past 100 years, more than 200 tsunamis have been recorded in the Pacific Ocean due to earthquakes and Japan has suffered a majority of them.

The Pacific Ocean tsunami warning system was put in place back in 1949. As of June 2006, the Indian Ocean has a tsunami warning system, and NOAA expanded the Pacific system to include the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and areas of the Atlantic around the U.S. coast as of mid-2007.

Did you know…

  • a tsunami is not a tidal wave – it has nothing to do with the tide?!
  • another name used to describe a tsunami is “harbor wave”?!
  • “tsu” means harbor and “nami” means wave in Japanese?!
  • sometimes the ocean floor is exposed near the shore since a tsunami can cause the water to recede or move back before slamming in to shore?!
  • tsunamis can travel up streams and rivers that lead to the ocean?!

Tsunami Preparedness Week is March 23 – 29, 2014 and is designed to help cities, towns, counties, universities and other large sites in coastal areas reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences using National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program.  Their site contains resources that can help families and communities year-round, plus we wanted to share some tsunami safety tips from our IT’S A DISASTER! book.

BEFORE A TSUNAMI:

Learn the buzzwords – Learn words used by both the West Coast / Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC – for AK, BC, CA, OR, and WA) and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC – for international authorities, HI and all U.S. territories within Pacific basin) for tsunami threats…

  • Advisory – an earthquake has occurred in the Pacific basin which might generate a tsunami
  • Watch – a tsunami was or may have been generated, but is at least 2 hours travel time from Watch area
  • Warning – a tsunami was / may have been generated and could cause damage to Warning area – should evacuate

Learn risks – If new to area, call local emergency management office and ask what the warning signals are and what to do when you hear them. Coastal areas less than 25 feet above sea level and within a mile of shoreline along coasts are at greatest risk. Or visit www.tsunamiready.noaa.gov

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan  (e.g. establish meeting places, list of emergency contact #s, out of state contact person, etc) and Disaster Supplies Kits.

Listen – Make sure you have a battery-operated radio (with spare batteries) for weather forecasts and updates. (Radios like Environment Canada’s Weatheradio and NOAA’s Weather Radio have a tone-alert feature that automatically alerts you when a Watch or Warning has been issued.)

Water signs – If near water or shore, watch for a noticeable rise or fall in the normal depth of coastal water – that’s advance warning of a tsunami so get to high ground. Also – if water pulls away from shoreline and exposes sea floor – run to higher ground ASAP!!

Feeling shaky…? – If you feel an earthquake in the Pacific Coast area (from Alaska down to Baja), listen to the radio for tsunami warnings.

Is that it…? – Don’t be fooled by the size of one wave – more will follow and they could get bigger … and a small tsunami at one beach can be a giant wave a few miles away!

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

DURING A TSUNAMI:

Leave – If you are told to evacuate, DO IT! Remember – a tsunami is a series of waves – the first one may be small but who knows what the rest will bring. Grab your BOB/Disaster Supplies Kit and GO!

IF ON OR NEAR SHORE – Get off the shore and get to higher ground quickly! Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean since tsunamis can travel up them too. You cannot outrun a tsunami … if you see the wave it’s too late!

IF ON A BOAT – It depends where you are — either get to land or go further out to sea …

  • In port – May not have time to get out of port or harbor and out to sea – check with authorities to see what you should do. Smaller boats may want to dock and get passengers and crew to land quickly.
  • In open ocean – DO NOT return to port if a tsunami warning has been issued since wave action is barely noticeable in the open ocean! Stay out in open sea or ocean until authorities advise danger has passed.

Don’t go there – Do NOT try to go down to the shoreline to watch and don’t be fooled by size of one wave – more will follow and they could get bigger so continue listening to radio and TV.

AFTER A TSUNAMI:

Listen – Whether on land or at sea, local authorities will advise when it is safe to return to the area — keep listening to radio and TV updates.

Watch out – Look for downed power lines, flooded areas and other damage caused by the waves.

Don’t go in there – Try to stay out of buildings or homes that are damaged until it is safe to enter and wear sturdy work boots and gloves when working in the rubble.

Strange critters – Be aware that the waves may bring in many critters from the ocean (marine life) so watch out for pinchers and stingers!

RED or GREEN sign in window – After a disaster, Volunteers and Emergency Service personnel may go door-to-door to check on people. By placing a sign in your window that faces the street near the door, you can let them know if you need them to STOP HERE or MOVE ON. Either use a piece of RED or GREEN construction paper or draw a big RED or GREEN “X” (using a crayon or marker) on a piece of paper and tape it in the window.

  • RED means STOP HERE!
  • GREEN means EVERYTHING IS OKAY…MOVE ON!
  • Nothing in the window would also mean STOP HERE!

Insurance – If your home suffers any damage, contact your insurance agent and keep all receipts for clean-up and repairs.

Mold – Consider asking a restoration professional to inspect your house for mold. Also check out www.epa.gov/mold

Some additional things to check and do…

  • Check electrical system (watch for sparks, broken wires or the smell of hot insulation)
  • Check appliances after turning off electricity at main fuse and, if wet, unplug and let them dry out. Call a professional to check them before using.
  • Check water and sewage system and, if pipes are damaged, turn off main water valve.
  • Throw out food, makeup and medicines that may have been exposed to flood waters and check refrigerated foods to see if they are spoiled. If frozen foods have ice crystals in them then okay to refreeze.
  • Throw out moldy items that are porous (like rotten wood, carpet padding, furniture, etc.) if they’re too difficult to clean and remove mold. Remove standing water and scrub moldy surfaces with non-ammonia soap or detergent, or a commercial cleaner, rinse with clean water and dry completely. Then use a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts clean water to wipe down surfaces or items, rinse and dry.
  • Secure valuable items or move them to another location, if possible

Above from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book  … and find some additional resources below the video.  

Additional resources…

West Coast / Alaska Tsunami Warning Center  (WC/ATWC – for AK, BC, CA, OR, and WA)

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center  (PTWC – for international authorities, HI and all U.S. territories within Pacific basin)

TsunamiReady

CDC’s Tsunami page

Photos: Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters + European Pressphoto Agency via NatGeo 

See some more incredible photos from Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima disasters

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National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014 #BeAForce

February 28, 2014

Photo: FEMAMost states across the U.S. set aside a week in February or March to observe their own local Severe Weather Awareness week , but NOAA, FEMA and others will be promoting National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014.

As we’ve seen year after year, March brings all kinds of wild weather and chaos like thunderstorms, tornadoes, high winds and flooding. And there are still chances of snow storms and hard freezes in various parts of the country so we all need to be prepared for Mother Nature’s mood swings.

The goal of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is to inform the public about severe weather hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to prepare and take action. These actions can be used to save lives anywhere – at home, in schools, and in the workplace before extreme weather strikes. As NOAA says… Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example where you live.

Facts & Figures

In 2013, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

Globally, losses from natural catastrophes in 2013 were somewhat moderate: the direct overall losses of around US$125bn remained below the average of the past ten years (US$184bn) according to Munich Re. Sadly, in a total of 880 major disasters around the world in 2013, more than 20,000 people were killed, but this figure is significantly below the average of the past ten years (106,000).

Take the Next Step 

NOAA and FEMA’s Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step campaign encourages the public to take a single preparedness action during each day of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

For example, according to NOAA’s Social Media Plan, daily themes include…

  • Sunday, March 2nd – National Severe Weather Preparedness Week Launch
  • Monday, March 3rd – Know your Severe Weather Risk
  • Tuesday, March 4th – Build an Emergency Kit
  • Wednesday, March 5th – Make an Emergency Plan
  • Thursday, March 6th – Emergency Alert Warnings
  • Friday, March 7th – Be a Force of Nature – Take Action
  • Saturday, March 8th – Summary

In addition to the below educational resources, visit NOAA’s online toolkit page to find some materials, social media tools, a poster and more to help spread the word during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

Flood and Tsunami Awareness Weeks also in March

March 16 – 22, 2014 is National Flood Awareness week intended to highlight some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods, and what you can do to save life and property.

Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/ orwww.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/floodsafe.shtml to find tools, tips, brochures, videos and more.

And Tsunami Awareness Week is March 23 – 29, 2014 is designed to help cities, towns, counties, universities and other large sites in coastal areas reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences using National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program. Learn more at www.tsunamiready.noaa.gov 

Learn more

FLOOD resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mold cleanup tips

EPA’s 20-page guide, “Mold, Moisture and Your Home”

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Flood page

NOAA’s Flood Safety page

Ready Campaign flood safety awareness page

THUNDERSTORM and LIGHTNING Resources

National Weather Service Lightning Safety site

NWS Lightning Safety Tools for Teachers

Ready Campaign Thunderstorms & Lightning page

TORNADO Resources

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Tornado page

NOAA Tornado safety tips

More NOAA Tornado tips

Ready Campaign Tornado page

The Tornado Project Online!

Or visit your state or local Emergency Management, Health, Fire, Police or Sheriff department’s website to find local emergency information, safety tips and tools to help you and your loved ones prepare for severe weather outbreaks.

Also learn more about our collaborative Public-Private Partnership ideas associated with our customizable book to help fund volunteers and first responders and educate local communities while saving them money! It’s a whole community approach to resilience and preparedness and can complement your Awareness campaigns. Read more


Dancing across the water (surreal waterspouts)

July 26, 2013

waterspout noaaLast week we saw a photo of an incredible waterspout near Tampa Bay Florida (included below) and thought this would be a great topic for today’s Friday Fotos post.

Waterspouts are spinning columns of rising moist air that typically form over warm water.  The Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida is arguably the most active area in the world for waterspouts, with hundreds forming each year. Some people speculate that waterspouts are responsible for some of the losses recorded in the Bermuda Triangle per NASA.

According to NOAA Ocean Facts waterspouts fall into two categories…

Tornadic waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water. They have the same characteristics as a land tornado, are associated with severe thunderstorms, and are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, and frequent dangerous lightning.

Fair weather waterspouts usually form along the dark flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds. This type of waterspout is generally not associated with thunderstorms. While tornadic waterspouts develop downward in a thunderstorm, a fair weather waterspout develops on the surface of the water and works its way upward. By the time the funnel is visible, a fair weather waterspout is near maturity.

If a waterspout moves onshore in the U.S., the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, as some of them can cause significant damage and injuries to people. Typically, fair weather waterspouts dissipate rapidly when they make landfall, and rarely go far inland.

But enough talking already … here is a tiny sampling of some beautiful twisted water dancing formations…

waterspout albania photo by roberto Giudici

4 (of 10 sighted) waterspouts near the coast of Albania 1999; Credit & Copyright: Roberto Giudici via CSU

waterspout grandisle louisiana photo by adam frey

Grand Isle, Louisiana June 2013; Credit: Adam Frey via WWLTV

waterspout bahamas photo by NOAA

Waterspouts in the Bahamas Islands Credit: NOAA’s NWS Collection

Tampa Bay Florida waterspout photo by joey mole via NASA

Gorgeous waterspout near Tampa Bay Florida July 2013; Image Credit & Copyright: Joey Mole via NASA

Below video shows a series of powerful waterspouts near New South Wales coast. Several powerful columns of swirling air could be seen blasting along the water’s surface near the coastline. Australia’s Channel 7 claimed the spouts reached heights of up to 600 metres (nearly two thousand feet), but dissipated as they neared land.

Find more waterspout photos and info in NOAA’s Photo Library or on Islandnet.com

Stay safe & have a great weekend everyone! 🙂 j & B


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


Information and tips about NOAA Weather Radios

August 28, 2012

NOAA Weather RadioA critical tool every family and business should have in the home, kits and office are battery (or hand crank) radios so you can receive news and updates during an emergency. But another tool to consider is a weather radio.

NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts National Weather Service (NWS) warnings, watches, forecasts, and other non-weather related hazard information 24 hours a day.

During an emergency, NWS sends a special tone that activates weather radios in the listening area. Weather radios equipped with a special alarm tone feature can sound an alert and give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation.

NOAA Weather RadioNOAA Weather Radios are found in most electronics stores and departments and cost about $25 – $100. Some features to consider are alarm tone, battery backup, and “Specific Area Message Encoding” (SAME) programming.

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards – weather (blizzards, thunderstorms, etc.), natural (floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes), technological (chemical or oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, etc.), and national emergencies.

NOAA collaborates with other Federal agencies and the FCC’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to issue non-weather related emergency messages including the issuance of “AmberAlerts”.

Options for those with Special Needs

NOAA Weather Radio offers nonverbal information imbedded in its broadcasts to provide timely, critical warnings of life threatening events to the hearing impaired. Some receivers are equipped with special output connectors that activate alerting devices such as vibrators, bed shakers, pillow vibrators, strobe lights and other alerting systems. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/info/shhh.html for more information.

Programming Your NOAA Weather Radio

If you purchase a Weather Radio receiver with “Specific Area Message Encoding”, you should program it with coding for your area. By doing so, you can limit the alerts which will trigger your weather radio to only those affecting your warning area.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions to program your receiver using the six-digit SAME code(s) for the warning areas of interest to you.

For more about NOAA Weather Radios visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/


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