Natural Disasters: The Road to Recovery and How to Give Back

Within the last month, millions of Americans have been touched in some way by natural disaster….and depending on where you live in the country or world, you may or may not have heard all of the details of each. A severe weather event, known as a derecho (checkout this blog for more info on what a derecho is!), took place across the Midwestern United States August 10-11, 2020, wreaking moderate to severe damage. On August 27, Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana, leaving many have been left without homes, food, clothing, and other essential needs.he journey back to any place of seemingly normality will be on the time-scale of years, not months, for many. There are areas that are expected to be without running water and electricity for months. And now? Less than a month after the derecho, multiple wildfires are burning in the west. We care about all those impacted by these natural disasters, and we wanted to share resources to include ways to give back to those impacted by these events.

Lake Charles, LA. Photo Courtesy: Elise Venable (@VenableMBBS)
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Understanding the Strength of Tropical Storms: Pressure, Winds, and Surge

One week ago today, Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana…a community whose residents are no stranger to the devastation of tropical storms. Category 3 Hurricane Audrey caused over 300 deaths in the small town in 1957, and nearly 50 years later, the town was struck again. While everyone fortunately evacuated before Category 5 Hurricane Rita, the storm devastated the town in September 2005. Then, in the midst of recovery from Rita, in came Hurricane Ike, leveling the town with a 12 foot storm surge. Ike destroyed over 90% of the homes within the parish and caused catastrophic flooding in every part of the parish. The damage sustained by both Rita and Ike led to stricter building codes and higher insurance costs, leading to the town’s dramatic reduction in population – from 1,965 people in 2000 to just 406 in 2010.

Credit: NOAA
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Weather Quiz: Fact or Fiction?

For this week’s blog, I thought it would fun to look at some commonly accepted weather ‘facts’, and find out whether they are really true or not! Take the quiz below, and then scroll down to see how you did!

True or false?

  1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
  2. Being out in the cold air causes sickness.
  3. Flash flooding only happens near rivers and streams.
  4. If the car in front of you drives through a flooded roadway, it is also safe for you to do so.
  5. Crickets chirp frequency can tell you about the air temperature.
  6. Raindrops are shaped like teardrops.
  7. Clouds don’t weigh anything.
  8. You can tell how far away a lightning strike was by counting the time between the flash and when you hear thunder.
  9. Working out in the cold weather makes you burn calories faster.
  10. At any given time, there are approximately 2000 thunderstorms occurring around the world.

Did you answer the questions?

Great! Let’s see how you did.

1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice. FALSE!

As anyone who lives in New York City or any other place with tall buildings knows, lightning can DEFINITELY strike the same place more than once. Lightning will seek out the tallest object, so if you find yourself caught outside during a storm, make yourself as small as possible and stay away from tall objects such a trees. Did you know that the Empire State Building, only one of many tall buildings in New York City, is struck by lightning about 25 times per year on average?


2. Being out in the cold air causes sickness. (mostly) FALSE!

The bottom line here is that, hot or cold, you need to be exposed to a virus or bacteria in order to get sick. However, people do tend to get sick more frequently in the wintertime. Why is that? There are a number of reasons, and the answer is not so simple. People tend to stay inside more during the winter, which can mean close quarters with other people who may be sick. Additionally, the dry air which is caused by running heat inside homes can dry out nasal passages, increasing susceptibility to infection. Lastly, research has shown that common cold viruses replicate faster at colder temperatures in mice, and that immune cells may be less effective at fighting off viruses at cold temperatures. So, even if you answered true, I would give you credit for this question because the answer is not nearly so simple as it seems!

3. Flash flooding only happens near rivers and streams. FALSE!

While people commonly think of flooding as occurring near rivers and other bodies of water, flooding can occur anywhere. When thunderstorms repeatedly bring rain to the same area, that area can be prone to flooding. Additionally, as water works it way through the river and stream network, flooding can occur well removed from where the original rainfall occurred. Flash flooding, however, occurs when water rises very quickly, usually as a result of thunderstorms bringing heavy rainfall in a short period of time. This can be exacerbated in areas of poor drainage and urban areas, which is why it is important to always be aware of the weather forecast for your area.

4. If the car in front of you drives through a flooded roadway, it is also safe for you to do so. FALSE!

This one relates to the previous question! It is NEVER safe to drive across a flooded roadway. It only takes six inches of running water to knock over an adult, and only twelve inches to take away most cars. Always remember, even when it is inconvenient, our friends at the National Weather Service remind us to Turn Around Don’t Drown®!

5. Crickets chirp frequency can tell you about the air temperature. TRUE!

Crickets are cold-blooded, and you will not hear them chirping when the temperature is below about 55 degrees. To estimate the air temperature, count the number of chirps you hear in 15 seconds and then add 37!

6. Raindrops are shaped like teardrops. FALSE!

Actually, due to surface tension and the action of gravity on a falling drop, raindrops take on a hamburger-bun type of shape rather than a teardrop shape. Did you know that raindrops can range in size from less than 1 millimeter up to about 4 millimeters? Much larger than that, and generally the drop will split into two as it falls toward the ground.

7. Clouds don’t weigh anything. FALSE!

While it may seem as though clouds are ‘light as air’ when you are flying through them on an airplane, they are actually made up of millions and millions of tiny water droplets and/or ice crystals. These tiny droplets are so small that they are suspended on air currents instead of falling to the ground like raindrops. In fact, if you do the math and estimate how many droplets make up a typical cumulus cloud, the water content actually weighs 1.1 million pounds!!! Wow!

8. You can tell how far away a lightning strike was by counting the time between the flash and when you hear thunder. TRUE!

To estimate how far away a lightning strike is, count the number of seconds between the flash (when you see the lightning) and the bang (when you hear thunder). Divide this number by 5, and that tells you how many miles away the strike was. Remember that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to get struck by lightning and should seek shelter. Other lightning safety tips can be found here.

9. Working out in the cold weather makes you burn calories faster. TRUE!

This is true, but you still need to be careful working out in the cold. As it turns out, your body has to work harder to warm you up when it is cold out, which in turn burns more calories. Also, there is the physiological effect that it just feels easier to exercise in a cooler climate, and so you are more apt to push yourself harder or longer than you would if it was sweltering. With the vast array of workout wear available today, there are plenty of options to dress appropriately for workouts even in extremely cold temperatures. Runners World has this handy tool to help you determine appropriate attire for all conditions. However, working out in the cold can be dangerous and you should always take appropriate precautions. Heat loss through sweaty gym clothes happens and a very fast rate even at not-very-cold temperatures, so you need to plan to be inside and changing into dry clothes as soon as possible after a workout.

10. At any given time, there are approximately 2000 thunderstorms occurring around the world. TRUE!

At any given time, there are about this many thunderstorms happening somewhere on earth. NOAA’s GOES-EAST satellite has the amazing capability to detect lightning from space. The loop below shows lightning strikes detected from the satellite over a 24 hour period. Click here for a recent loop, and here to see what NOAA’s other geostationary satellite, GOES-WEST, is detecting!

How to Plan a Wedding with Weather in Mind

Hi friends! As you might have seen in our spring newsletter that we published a couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to get married back in April…but of course, COVID-19 had other plans and we ultimately decided to postpone our big day. However, before the pandemic, I had drafted this blog to share how to plan your wedding while considering the effects that the weather might have on your day. Of course, you can’t predict what the weather will be when you set your date, but there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chances for your ideal wedding weather.

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Hurricanes and Mental Health

Research shows that mental illnesses are common in the United States, with nearly one in five adults living with a mental illness. Extreme weather events can impacts mental health in several ways, both in immediate anxiety-related responses, as well as chronic mental health disorders. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD; a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically occurring in the winter months) leads to insomnia, anxiety, and agitation. Flooding and prolonged droughts have been associated with with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Tropical cyclones are no exception and can wreak havoc beyond the images of flattened buildings, uprooted trees, and flooded streets that take over news coverage.

A home in Gulfport, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge.
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Summertime Safety

Hey y’all, happy Thursday! Tomorrow is the first day of May, and although summer doesn’t technically begin until June 20, it already feels like summer in my soul – and my backyard (hello Alabama warmth, I’ve missed you!) As we embark on the warmest time of year, I thought it might be a good time to refresh ourselves on summer safety tips as we plan for those backyard barbecues, beach and lake days, and more time spent outdoors in general!

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Preparedness in Times of Uncertainty

What a week it has been! At this time last week, I was driving down to Rockland County, New York on the first absolutely beautiful spring day we’ve had, expecting to appear at a trial later that day. My student intern and I were having a great conversation, and the drive was smooth and uneventful. As events turned out, I found myself (and my intern) driving back down to Rockland County on Wednesday. By the time we were on our way home, life as we knew it was quickly beginning to unravel. Her college made the move to online classes for the remainder of the semester, and in the coming days everything else quickly followed with closures and cancellations coming too fast to keep up with.

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March Madness – And We Aren’t Talking Basketball

NCAA March Madness officially runs from March 17 through April 7 this year, but that’s not what this blog is about! March is here, spring is just around the corner, and we are entering one of the wildest months for weather. As one of the “shoulder” or transition months between winter and spring, March is known for a smorgasbord of wild weather events. Extreme cold? Check. Extreme heat? Check. Blizzards? Check. Tornadoes? Check. Flooding? Check. Let’s take a look back at some of the most historical weather events that have occurred in the third month of the year.

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne’s parking Lot in the thick of a blizzard in March 2019. Photo by NWS MIC Jeff Garmon.
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Fog: A Ground and Air Transportation Hazard

Even if you are not a basketball fan, you no doubt heard the news of the passing of LA Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and 7 other people in a helicopter crash in southern California last week. The tragic news sent shock waves across the nation. As the parent of a teenage daughter who is a basketball player nearly year-round, I found this tragedy personally very difficult to process, especially upon learning that there were teammates, coaches, and parents who were scheduled to play a game that day on the doomed flight. The children, families, and coaches left behind will be dealing with this loss for a long time to come. As I sat down to write this blog post today, I was going to write on an entirely different topic, but given the thoughts in my mind, I thought it would be timely to use the opportunity to talk a bit about the hazard that fog presents to both ground and aviation travel.

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Credentials of a Meteorologist

If you do a simple Google search, it can be overwhelming to find a reliable source from which to receive your weather forecasts. Many people on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets often pose themselves as meteorologists and offer analysis, opinions and forecasts when in reality they may not have the credentials to rightly do so. At best, this is unethical and misleading, at worst, it can result in people making poor decisions based upon misinformation.

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