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Natural Disasters

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Would you and your family be prepared if a natural or man-made disaster were to strike? Do you have emergency supplies gathered in case your community had to evacuate during a hurricane? If you answered no to these questions, you are not alone. Statistics show that people are ill prepared when a disaster strikes them. To avoid being left unprepared, educate yourself and your family about what steps need to be taken before a disaster occurs. 

Everyday, there are disasters throughout the world - fires, floods, earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, etc. It is naive to think that you will never be a victim of a disaster. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to surviving when disasters strike. 

Flood

Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Floods are the inundation of a normally dry area caused by an increased water level in an established watercourse, such as a river, stream, drainage ditch, or ponding of water at or near the point where the rain fell.

Protect yourself!

Have a Family Emergency Plan and a Disaster Supply Kit ready in case you need to evacuate.

  • Know your evacuation routes before flooding occurs to ensure your safety.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Find a place where your family can safely meet up at after an evacuation order is issued.
  • Know the difference between a flood WATCH and a flood WARNING.
  • WATCH: The expectation of a flood event has increased, but its occurrence, location, and timing are still uncertain. WARNING: A flood event is occurring, imminent, or has a high probability of occurring.

During a Flood

According to floodsmart.gov, here are some recommended actions you can take to protect yourself and your property during and after a flood:

  • If flooding occurs, go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding.
  • Do not attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
  • If water rises in your home before you evacuate, go to the top floor, attic, or roof.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.

After a Flood

Recommended actions you can take following a flood:

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
  • Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded.
  • Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Check for structural damage before re-entering your home to avoid being trapped in a building collapse.
  • If your home has suffered damage, call your insurance agent to file a claim.
  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts, and place with the inventory you took prior to the flood. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items.
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation until authorities tell you that your water supply is safe.
  • Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately.
  • Wear gloves and boots to clean and disinfect. Wet items should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors.

Flooding Quick Facts

  • Flooding can occur from hurricanes, rapid accumulation of heavy rainfall, dam/levee breaks, storm surge, and outdated or clogged drainage systems. Flooding can range from just a few inches to several feet, and can occur quickly or last for a long period of time, such as days, weeks, or longer.
  • Flash floods are the most dangerous kind of floods. This type of flooding causes a rapid rise of water in a short period of time, generally with little or no warning.

Flood Statistics

  • As little as one foot of (moving) water can move most cars off the road.
  • Just six inches of fast-moving flood water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Most flood-related deaths occur at night and are vehicular.
  • Urban and small stream flash floods often occur in less than one hour.
  • Tropical cyclones pose significant risk well inland due to fresh water flooding.
Hurricane
Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the ocean and move toward land. When a storm's maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is rated between a 1 through 5 category based on a hurricane's maximum sustained winds. The higher the category, the greater the hurricane's potential for property damage. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes.
Hazard Facts
  • Hurricane watch - conditions possible within the next 48 hrs.
  • Hurricane warning - conditions are expected within 36 hrs.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October.
  • The difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane is wind speed – tropical storms usually bring winds of 39-73 mph, whereas hurricane wind speeds are at least 74 mph.
  • Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around the eye. The rotating storm clouds create the "eye wall," which is the most destructive part of the storm.
  • Storm surge and rainfall flooding combined for 75 percent of all deaths in the U.S. from hurricanes, tropical storms, or tropical depressions from 1963 to 2012. Historic/Possible Impacts

Hurricanes can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and wind intensity of the storm, the amount and duration of rainfall, the path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, the terrain, and soil conditions. The effects include the following:

  • Death or injury to people and animals.
  • Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures.
  • Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications, and other services.
  • Coastal flooding from heavy rains and storm surge; and Inland flooding from heavy rains.

What Would You Do?

Before

According to ready.gov, here are some recommended actions you can take to protect yourself and your property before an impending hurricane:

  • Know your Risk
  • Have a Kit
  • Make a Plan for your family and you business.
  • Don't forget those with special needs. If you have pets, you will need to create a plan for them as well. 
  • If you are ordered to evacuate, go immediately, as described (Here). Express to your family that this will be a stressful and emotional time in everyone’s life and that the stress can be lessened by being prepared.
  • Stay Informed
  • Prepare Your Home
  • Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors. Consider retrofitting your home to better withstand the potential of wind and water damage. Think through investing in commercial or home-made hurricane shutters, storm panels and security window film. These will prevent your windows from breaking.
  • Remove or secure items that are typically outside. Bring patio furniture, garden tools, garbage cans, and toys inside. Anchoring storage sheds and other outbuildings helps prevent them from becoming flying debris. Anchor objects that are unsafe to bring inside, like gas grills or propane tanks.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
  • Update your Homeowner’s insurance policy for adequate coverage. If you rent, obtain Renter’s insurance now. Take advantage of the Federal Flood Insurance Program for flood coverage as your Homeowner’s and Renter’s insurance does not cover losses from flooding.
  • Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Tell children how and when to call 911, police or the fire department, and which radio station to listen to for emergency information.

As the Storm Approaches

 According to ready.gov,here are recommended actions you can take as a storm approaches:

  • 36 Hours before Tropical Storm Force Winds
  • Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead. Review the shelter list, and wait for instructions from local officials to see which shelters will be opened for this event.
  • Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
  • Refill prescriptions. Maintain at least a two-week supply of medication during hurricane season.
  • 36-18 Hours before Tropical Storm Force Winds
  • Stay Informed with local weather and emergency officials.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
  • Never sweep or blow yard leaves, pine needles, grass clippings or soil into the street or storm water system. This clogs up the stormwater pipes and prevents water from draining. Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Brace double entry and garage doors at the top and bottom.
  • Clear your yard of lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles, trash cans and other potential airborne missiles.Leave the swimming pool filled and chlorinated. Cover the filtration system.
  • If there is a chance flooding could threaten your home, move important items such as electronics, antiques and furniture off the floor.
  • Secure your boat early. Drawbridges will be closed to boat traffic after an evacuation order is issued.
  • 18-6 Hours before Tropical Storm Force Winds
  • If you live on the barrier islands, in a low-lying or flood prone area, in a mobile or manufactured home, or you do not feel safe in your residence, monitor our information networks via Stay Informed to see which shelters are opened, and when they will start accepting evacuees.
  • Stay informed: Turn on your TV/radio, or check our /NWS Melbourne/your city’s social media sites every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
  • 6 Hours before Tropical Storm Force Winds
  • If you’re in an area that is recommended for evacuation, evacuate as soon as you are instructed to do so. While we do not close the causeways before the storm, they may become unsafe to traverse as the storm’s high winds gets closer.
  • If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
  • Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.

Stay informed: Turn on your TV/radio, or check (our/ NWS Melbourne's/ your city’s) social media sites every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

During

The greatest potential danger to personal safety occurs during a storm and in the direct aftermath. Below are some suggested safety tips for families and individuals to follow during a hurricane:

  • Find a safe area within your home (an interior room, closet, or bathroom on the lower level) and stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Do not go outside during the storm. The eye of the storm may cause a false sense of security as there will be a short period of calm, but increased winds will return. Wait until the hurricane has fully passed to venture outside.
  • If flooding threatens your home, turn off electricity at the main breaker.
  • If your home loses power, turn off major appliances to reduce damage.
  • Beware of lightning. Stay away from electrical equipment.

After

According to ready.gov,here are recommended actions you can take on what to do after a hurricane has passed:

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
Tornado

Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms. In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries.  

A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting funnel shaped cloud and spawned by a thunderstorm. In Florida, hurricanes often bring thunderstorms which precede tornadoes. Tornadoes are produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. The damage from a tornado is a result of the high wind velocity and windblown debris.

Tornado season is generally March through August, although tornadoes can occur any time during the year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings. Eight out of ten tornadoes occur between noon and midnight.
TORNADO WATCH
A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions which can lead to the development of tornadoes are present in your area. Remind family members about safety precautions, such as using a "safe room" in your home if you have built one, and continue to listen to broadcast reports.
TORNADO WARNING
A tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service when tornado has been sighted or observed on radar. Move the family to the pre-identified safe room or other secure location and stay tuned to a battery operated radio until the National Weather Service determines that the threat has passed.
Enhanced Fujita Scale

From the National Weather Service: The Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF Scale, which became operational on February 1, 2007, is used to assign a tornado a 'rating' based on estimated wind speeds and related damage. When tornado-related damage is surveyed, it is compared to a list of Damage Indicators (DIs) and Degrees of Damage (DoD) which help estimate better the range of wind speeds the tornado likely produced. From that, a rating (from EF0 to EF5) is assigned.

The EF Scale was revised from the original Fujita Scale to reflect better examinations of tornado damage surveys so as to align wind speeds more closely with associated storm damage. The new scale has to do with how most structures are designed.

EF Rating

3 Second Gust (mph)

0

65-85

1

86-110

2

111-135

3

136-165

4

166-200

5

Over 200

                                                              
The EF scale still is a set of wind estimates (not measurements) based on damage. Its uses three-second gusts estimated at the point of damage. These estimates vary with height and exposure. Important: The 3 second gust is not the same wind as in standard surface observations. Standard measurements are taken by weather stations in open exposures, using a directly measured, "one minute mile" speed. 

Tornado Danger Signs

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a cumuliform cloud, such as a thunderstorm, to the ground.  Tornadoes may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel. The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes can move in any direction and can suddenly change their direction of motion.

When conditions are warm, humid, and windy, or skies are threatening, monitor for severe weather watches and warnings by listening to NOAA Weather Radio, logging onto weather.gov or tuning into your favorite television or radio weather information source. The following are tornado danger signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar, often described as sounding like a freight train.
  • Visible funnel, often with debris below it.
  • Rain or low lying clouds can often obscure the funnel.
  • The wind could die down and the air become very still just prior to the tornado hitting.
  • Approaching clouds of debris could be visible, even if the funnel is not.

Tornadoes often following on the trailing edge of thunderstorms. It is not uncommon to see sunlit sky behind the tornado. 

Before the Tornado

Advanced planning is the key to surviving a tornado. The entire family must be aware that there is little warning. Having planned their actions prior to the event is critical. Ensure you have built a disaster supply kitmade a disaster plan, and are staying informed. During tornado season, you may want to consider adding a helmet (per family member) to your disaster supply kit to protect yourself from falling debris.

Tornado Communications Plan

Families could be separated when the tornado occurs, and telephone service might be disrupted. A family communication plan should identify who your family members will call to exchange information about their location and condition. This might be a relative or friend of the family who is willing to take messages and coordinate information.

Your house or entire neighborhood might be destroyed or cordoned off by emergency workers. Have an alternate location selected where the family can assemble. Keep in mind the age of the younger members of your family when developing your communications plan. Keep it simple.

Conduct Tornado Drills

Designate an area in your home as a shelter. It should be a room which you feel is the strongest structurally and thus the most likely to withstand the tornado winds and flying debris.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages people to have a "safe room "in their house. This room should be structurally enhanced to make it more secure than it was when originally built. Those families awaiting their home being constructed should consider talking with their contractor about building in extra strength for one of the rooms. It is less expensive to do this during construction than to modify the house later.

Keep your disaster supply kit in your tornado shelter. Your family should practice responding to the room as if there were an actual threat. 

During the Tornado

IF YOU ARE AT HOME:

  • Get to the lowest level or point in your home, such as a basement.
  • If you home does not have a basement, go to some area without windows, such as an inner hallway or perhaps bathroom.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Room corners attract debris, so stay in the center of the room.
  • Use a helmet to protect your head and neck, and shoes to protect your feet.
  • Seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a dining room table.
  • If you are in a mobile or manufactured home, leave it and seek shelter elsewhere.
IF YOU ARE IN A MOBILE/MANUFACTURED HOME:
  • Mobile/manufactured homes are not safe during tornadoes!
  • Make a plan today to stay with a friend or family member when a tornado watch is issued for your area, and seek shelter in a sturdy building.
  • Ensure you have a plan in place that identifies the closest sturdy building where you can shelter – remember by the time a tornado warning is issued, you will have mere minutes to take shelter.
IF YOU ARE AT WORK:
  • If a basement exists: use it, otherwise seek an interior hall.
  • Avoid facilities with wide span roofs, such as shopping malls, auditoriums and the like.
  • Use a helmet to protect your neck and head.
IF YOU ARE OUTDOORS:
  • If possible, seek shelter in a building.
  • If you do not have time to get inside of a building, seek out low-lying ground or a ditch. In Florida, be mindful of the wildlife that may inhabit ditches, and areas which could flood.
  • Crouch near a strong building.

IF YOU ARE IN A VEHICLE:

  • You cannot out-drive a tornado. They can move upwards of three hundred miles per hour, change direction, and can lift up vehicles as large as a railroad car and toss it through the air.
  • Leave the vehicle as quickly as possible and seek shelter in a building.
  • If you cannot reach a building, seek shelter outdoors as indicated above. 
After the Tornado
  • Remain aware that tornadoes can change directions and return quickly to areas they just left.
  • Give aid to the injured.
  • Listen to local emergency officials to stay informed about relief support.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings. If your neighborhood has been evacuated, return home only after authorities have permitted re-entry.
  • Use telephones only for emergency calls, text messaging is preferred.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other hazardous substances.
  • Leave any building in which you can smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take photographs of damage to support your insurance claims.
Tornado Facts
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.
  • The strongest tornadoes have rotating winds of more than 200 mph.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over warm water. Water spouts can move onshore and cause damage to coastal areas.
  • Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, any day of the year.
Wildfire
A wildfire is any free burning, uncontainable wildland fire not prescribed for the area which consumes the natural fuels and spreads in response to its environment. The most at-risk locations are areas where development has occurred or is occurring at the edge of previously undeveloped vegetated areas, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, etc.
What Would You Do?
Before

According to ready.gov, here are some actions you can take to protect yourself and your property before a wildfire:

  • Build a kit
  • Have a plan
  • Stay informed
Prepare Your Home
  • Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
  • Maintain an area approximately 30’ away from you home that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
  • Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.
  • Understand the Nationals Weather Service Fire Weather Watch/ Red Flag Warnings.

The Red Flag Warning is designed to provide land management agencies warning of potentially hazardous fire weather conditions that are imminent or already occurring.

A red flag warning is issued based on the most hazardous weather associated with the largest ten percent of fires. The following weather conditions will prompt the issuance of a red flag warning: Relative humidity below 35% AND wind speed of 15 mph or greater AND Energy Release Component (Fuel Model G) of 27 or higher or Relative humidity below 35% for four hours or more AND Energy Release Component (Fuel Model G) of 37 or higher.

A Fire Weather Watch is designed to alert those agencies to possible red flag conditions in the future.

The National Weather Service does not make any management decisions as a result of the Watch or Warning. Specific actions are determined by user agencies.

During
Ready.gov  provides the following recommended safety tips:
  • If you see a wildfire and haven't received evacuation orders yet, call 9-1-1. Don't assume that someone else has already called.
  • If ordered to evacuate during a wildfire, do it immediately- make sure and tell someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
  • If you or someone you are with has been burned, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
After

According to ready.gov, here are some suggested actions you can take to protect yourself and your property after a wildfire:

Returning Home
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a "fire watch." Check and re-check for smoke, sparks or hidden embers throughout the house, including the roof and the attic.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning. Evacuate immediately if you smell smoke.