storms

Climate Leaders Collaboration

Understanding Climate Change impacts in the New England region is one thing, and actually working to improve vision, capability and capacity to confront climate change and make our communities more resilient is an even bigger challenge. It is a challenge that the New England states are focused on because the vulnerabilities we are facing are real. We have seen a 74 percent increase in extreme precipitation events between 1958 and 2011. Hurricanes and tropical storms are increasing in intensity and that is expected to continue. We saw our vulnerabilities come to life in our inland states after Tropical Storm Irene. We saw the coast get slammed after Hurricane Sandy. Fifty percent of New Englanders live in coastal counties, and depend on critical infrastructure there. With sea level rise, and increased extreme precipitation events, these areas are vulnerable to flooding and storm surge in ways that they have never been before.

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Resiliency In The Face Of Stronger Storms

By Josephine Chu

We all remember Superstorm Sandy, especially those of us who live along the East Coast. My parents, who reside on Long Island, were very lucky and did not have any major damage to their home. They did, however, have to live without electricity for two weeks.

Seeing the impact on my parents during this time made me realize just how much we depend on electricity to run the daily tasks in our lives. My parents could cook at home on our gas stove, but without a working refrigerator, they couldn’t store perishables. Long lines at the gas stations meant that even the simple task of driving to buy supplies became difficult. Some of my friends didn’t have running water since there was no electricity to operate the water pumps. These stories made me wonder: will we be prepared if another Sandy hits? Are more Sandys in our future?
 
While there is uncertainty about the impact of climate change on the frequency of hurricanes, scientists have evidence documenting how climate change will intensify storms. According to the US Global Change Research Program, it is very likely that increased levels of greenhouse gases have contributed to an increase in sea surface temperatures. The intensity of North Atlantic tropical storm activity for most of the mid- to late 20th century has increased, too (see the orange “Power Dissipation Index” line in the figure above). This trend is associated closely with variations in sea surface temperature (see the dashed purple line). As sea surface temperatures are projected to continue increasing in a warming climate, we can expect that warm waters will fuel more intense storms.

Government agencies, including EPA, are working together to implement the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, with the goal of accounting for the impacts of more intense storms. Cities are also taking action; in June 2013, New York City mayor Bloomberg proposed a $20 billion plan of flood barriers and green infrastructure to build a more resilient city.

Check out EPA’s page on adaptation efforts for more information about how we can work together to build climate-resilient communities. With better adaptation efforts, hopefully, my family and other communities can be better prepared for the next storm.

About the author: Josephine Chu is a fellow with the communications team of the Climate Change Division in the Office of Air and Radiation. She recently earned her master’s in Global Environmental Politics at American University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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After the Storm

By Lina Younes

As millions of residents along the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions of the United States are getting their lives back in order after Sandy’s vicious rampage, many are still dealing with the storm’s aftermath: severe flooding.

One of the many problems with flood water is that it may contain high levels of raw sewage and other contaminants that are hazardous to both your health and the environment. Above all, limit your contact with flood water!

If you were fortunate in not having flood water in your area, but still have water problems inside your home, remove and clean any water damaged items in order to avoid mold buildup. Controlling moisture is key to controlling mold in indoor environments. Exposure to mold has potential health effects that include allergic reactions, asthma attacks and other respiratory complaints. So address any water damage in your home quickly to protect your health and your family.

Are you concerned about the water quality in your area? Have you been informed by local authorities on the need to boil your water? Here you will find some valuable information on emergency disinfection of drinking water.

While utilities and local authorities are working around the clock to make sure that power is restored as quickly as possible, there are still residents without electricity due to Sandy’s wrath. Above all, do not use generators in enclosed areas inside the home or even in the garage. Why may you ask? Because generator exhaust is extremely toxic and may be lethal. Generator exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide.  Avoid using a generator or other combustion appliances inside the home.

Please be mindful that children and the elderly need special attention during these natural disasters. I know from my own personal experience listening to my parents mention that they simply “don’t feel thirsty.” Losing the sense of thirst with age puts the elderly at a greater risk of dehydration. Make sure they drink enough water even when they say they don’t feel like it.

Simple tips to help us recover from the storm. Hope they are helpful. Do you have any tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Day Without Water

By Laura Flynn

In June, a storm knocked out our power for several days and made me wonder what we’d do if we had lost water.
To help start my path to preparedness, I decide to walk through my typical day…but imagine it without water.
“No water?! I can’t brush my teeth or make coffee!”

As kids awaken, they shout, “I NEED a shower before school!”
I pass out gum, claim messy hair is in, and promise a drive-thru breakfast. Crisis averted, or not…
Drive-thru is closed, no water.
Well, the kids can just grab breakfast at school, or not.
There’s a steady stream of cars heading out of the parking lot – school’s closed.
“YES!!! School will be closed for days!”
“No” I reply “water will be back soon. It always is.”
Driving home, we pass empty malls and see parents putting kids back into cars. Workers are walking home from bus stops.

We try to buy bottled water, but stores are closed.
We then hear the county is distributing bottled water.
Lines are long and I wonder if they’ll have enough.
I panic, but just a little. The water will be back soon. It always is.
I turn on the news at home and hear we could be without water for a week.
Panic is setting in and I realize it’s not even noon in my imaginary day without water.
How can I avoid this nightmare? I need to do something to fix this imaginary day gone bad.

I check FEMA’s Ready.gov website, and decide to stockpile water. I need one gallon, per person, per day for three days, or 18 gallons…plus extra for coffee!
I think broader.

Do community businesses have back-up water supplies, such as storage tanks or bulk water delivery? No? I can direct them to EPA’s Community-Based Water Resiliency page.

I can also urge my water utilities to enter into mutual aid agreements so they can restore services in hours instead of days. I can point them to EPA’s WARN page, urge them to install a contaminant warning system, plan a table-top exercise, or explore other resources found on EPA’s Water Security homepage.

Imaging a day without water can be pretty scary, but it doesn’t have to be…not if I act now and prepare!

About the author: Laura Flynn is a Team Leader in the Water Security Division. After hours she shuffles four teenagers to soccer, basketball, and track. She can be reached at: Flynn.Laura@epa.gov

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Be Ready For The Unexpected

By Lina Younes

This past Friday night I don’t think anybody truly anticipated the intensity of the storm that hit the Washington metropolitan area. The devastation caused by the strong winds still has many utilities working around the clock trying to restore power to many residents in the area.

While we had enough flashlights and batteries, basic necessities, battery powered radios and a generator on standby to weather the storm; there were two things that were lacking. We hadn’t had the foresight to fill up the car with gas and we didn’t have cash on hand! We hadn’t foreseen the impact of the power outage would have on gas stations and banks in our immediate area.

Last Saturday, we were literally running on fumes when we finally found a working gas station with gasoline for sale. With gas in the tank, then we were able to drive further to find a bank with power.

So, what did we learn from this experience? Basically, to prepare for the unexpected!

And some additional tips?

How was your experience during the storm? We would love to hear from you!

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ready Today, Safer Tomorrow

By Lina Younes

The 2012 Hurricane Season will officially begin on June 1st. However, two named tropical storms on the list have made their early appearance in May weeks before the official season opening. Even though NOAA is predicting a near-normal 2012 hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea area, it is never too early to get ready before a storm approaches our shores. Even if you do not reside along coastal areas, you could feel the wrath of a hurricane inland from strong winds, torrential rains, flooding, subsequent landslides or debris flow.

So, what should you do as soon as possible? Develop your own emergency kit and hurricane preparedness plan for you and your family. Here are some of the steps you should take in advance to prepare for this event and stay safe.

  • In developing your emergency supplies kit, store up on canned food, bottled water, and other supplies like batteries.
  • Place matches in a waterproof container
  • Stock up on paper cups, plates, plastic utensils
  • Remember to stock up on pet food for your pets
  • Have important family documents on hand in a portable waterproof container
  • Have cash on hand
  • Have books, games, activities for children
  • Have a battery-powered portable radio
  • Have a manual can opener
  • Around the house, clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
  • Learn about hurricane evacuation routes in your area
  • Using technology, you can sign up to get text messages from FEMA with updated information about the storm
  • Have emergency phone numbers on hand to report power outages with your local utility company or get information on local shelters

After the hurricane is long gone, you might still have to deal with the storm aftermath.  There are certain tips that should help you to stay safe and recover faster after the storm.

  • Do not use a generator inside your home, garage or other enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide in generator exhaust can easily build up with lethal consequences.
  • If your drinking water is not safe, boil for one minute to kill water-borne diseases.
  • Mold growth may be a problem after flooding, get more information on flood cleanup to avoid indoor air quality problems.

Hope you find these tips useful. Any personal suggestions on preparing for a storm?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Finally Had To Buy That Generator

By Lina Younes

During the recent storms, my home was one of the thousands in the Washington, DC metro area that remained without power for several days. For some reason, my home seems to be located in an area that is prone to power outages, whether in the winter or the summer. There have been many occasions in which several streets near my home have endured a blackout while other houses a few streets down in the same neighborhood stay with power at all times. How does that happen? I simply don’t know.

For years, I had resisted purchasing a generator.  My main concern was for environmental reasons. Basically, I didn’t want a gas-based appliance emitting carbon monoxide and other gases close to my house. However, when we called the utility company during this last storm and they informed us that we were probably going to be without electricity for several days, we had no choice. We finally had to purchase one. So, I made sure that the generator was outside, far away from the house to minimize exposure to carbon monoxide.

I must confess that the experience during the recent power outage was not all negative. On the contrary, the first evening of the snowstorm when the power went out, we gather together around the warm chimney, got some flashlights, and started playing card games. It was great family time. When it was time to go to bed, we just snuggled in our beds with some extra blankets. By the second day, in spite of the Energy Star windows, the temperature inside started to drop beyond comfort. In light of the situation, we decided it was time to buy the generator.

After observing the necessary safety measures, at least we know that if we’re left without power again, we’ll be prepared. How was your experience during the recent snow storms? Send us your comments.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hurricane Season: Better Get Ready

Have you ever listened to the weather report and wished that the weatherman missed the mark? Well, after learning that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast projects a “busy Atlantic hurricane season” this year, we all hope these predictions don’t materialize. Given the situation of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the environmental repercussions of a major hurricane in that area could even be more devastating. Since we don’t have ways to control weather conditions, the best thing we can do with this forecast is to get ready before tropical storms approach our shores.

We are all aware of the madness at local supermarkets and hardware stores on the eve of a storm. Since we can anticipate the possibility of power outages during or right after a hurricane, why not make sure we have flashlights and batteries on hand well in advance of a hurricane? A battery-operated radio is another useful item to monitor storm developments. I remember that during one of the snowstorms this year, my small battery-operated radio was my lifeline to the outside world when my family and I were stuck home without electricity for 15 hours!

Speaking about electrical outages, never use a generator inside your home or an enclosed space like a basement or garage. The engine exhaust generates carbon monoxide, a toxic deadly toxic gas. Make sure these portable generators are used safely.

As a result of a hurricane or natural emergency, drinking water supplies may be contaminated. You can prepare by having bottled water at hand. Listen to local media reports during and after the storm for information on water safety.

While you are planning how to protect your family and home during a hurricane, don’t forget about your pets. If you live along the coastline or in an area prone to floods, there is the potential you might have to evacuate with short notice. Plan ahead where you can take your pet in such an emergency. And lastly, don’t forget about important papers like passports and insurance documents. It’s always best to prepare for the worse case scenario to be safe before the hurricane winds and rain come your way.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Prepárese para la temporada de huracanes

¿Alguna vez ha escuchado el informe del tiempo y deseado que se equivocaran? Bueno, después de escuchar el pronóstico de la Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica anticipando una “temporada activa de huracanes en el Atlántico”  este año, todos esperamos que sus predicciones no se materialicen. Dada la situación del derrame de petróleo en el golfo de México, las repercusiones ambientales de un fuerte huracán en esa área podrían ser aún más devastadoras. Como no podemos controlar las condiciones climatológicas, lo mejor que podemos hacer con este pronóstico es prepararnos antes de que los vientos huracanados se acerquen a nuestras costas.

Todos sabemos la locura que se genera en los supermercados y ferreterías en vísperas de una tormenta. Como podemos anticipar la posibilidad de apagones durante o después de un huracán, ¿por qué no nos aseguramos de tener linternas y baterías con antelación de un huracán? También es aconsejable tener un radio que funcione a base de baterías para monitorear la tormenta. Me acuerdo durante una de las tormentas de nieve este año, mi pequeño radio de baterías me permitió recibir noticias cuando mi familia y yo estábamos encerrados en la casa sin electricidad por un plazo de 15 horas!

Hablando de apagones, nunca use un generador dentro de su hogar o en un espacio encerrado como sótano o garaje. El escape del motor genera monóxido de carbono, un gas tóxico y mortal. Asegúrese de usar los generadores portátiles de manera segura.

Como resultado de un huracán o emergencia natural, se puede contaminar el suministro de agua. Usted se puede preparar al tener agua embotellada a mano. Escuche los informes noticiosos locales durante y después de la tormenta para información sobre la condición de su agua potable.

Mientras se prepara para proteger a su familia y hogar del huracán, no se olvide de sus mascotas. Si vive cerca de la costa o una zona propensa a inundaciones, existe la posibilidad de que tenga que ser evacuado con corto aviso. Planifique con antelación dónde va a llevar sus mascotas durante una emergencia. Sobre todo, no se olvide de sus documentos importantes como pasaportes y polizas de seguro. Siempre es mejor prepararse para lo peor para estar seguro antes de que los vientos huracanados y lluvias torrenciales azoten.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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