Enlightening Info from the NWS

Our National Weather Service web site  is an incredibly rich place for exploring and locating a variety of climate/weather/safety information.  Today I found this page, S.E. US, Gulf of Mexico Weather, while looking for information about Hurricane Paula, which has been threatening the SE US for the past few days.  Check out all the radio buttons offered over the top edge of the map to see other views of the area, such as water temperatures, the radar loop, etc.  And click on any of the yellow icons on the map to open a window showing the weather and wave conditions at the observation site.  You can zoom in by clicking on any locality and you can select the “Cities” button, then click on the city you’re interested in to see local conditions.  This looks like a great tool for increasing awareness of possible weather-related emergency preparedness needs.

I found this site by selecting “Marine” under “Forecasts” on the main NWS page, then selecting “Portals.”  There are also marine maps there for the Great Lakes as well as the other US coastal areas.  Thanks, NWS!

Viewing Earl’s progress

Check out Stormpulse.com to see a great map featuring Hurricane Earl, but with the ability to view other storms as well.  The maps are pulling in lots of data from many reputable sources (National Hurricane Center, NASA, NOAA, and others) to provide layered maps of weather patterns and major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the contiguous 48 states (see top menu bar on the site to switch maps).  On the Atlantic map particularly, be sure to click the “ON” buttons for Forecast Models and Clouds in the box in the upper right of the map to enhance the view of Hurricane Earl with additional layers. 

Winter Comes to Charlottesville

Snow started falling here in Charlottesville, Virginia, Friday night around 6pm and it has been steadily coming down for the last 15 hours.  The Library is open and we will keep it open throughout the weekend, as the last exam is Monday morning. Below are a four pictures that I took just outside the Library.  (Click on the images to enlarge.)  My guess is that there is at least 15″ of snow on the ground.  I know 15″ of snow is no-big-deal for you folks above the 40th parallel, but it’s big news down here.  Most businesses are closed and shelters are opening up for stranded motorist.  So far, no major power outages.

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And the next morning …

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You may be asking the question, “Okay, so what does all this have to do with disaster planning?”  The answer is that I learned a number of things that will help us in an actual disaster situation.

1)  I discovered that we can forward our main phone to another library number that is an iPhone.   Therefore, we can answer a call to our main line (and other forwarded lines) from a remote site using the iPhone.

2) By Saturday evening, food was hard to come by. as vendors were unable to make deliveries.  In addition, I noticed that some vending machines weren’t working and others that were asked for correct change only.  Therefore, and this is a lesson that we should all take very seriously, have extra food on hand both at work and at home, and keep plenty of extra change.

3) Students can spread information to their peers a lot quicker than we can get information out.  On Saturday, a rumor was circulating that the Library was going to close early.  I assured a student who asked about the rumor that we would be open until midnight.  He quickly notified the students and the rumor was cut off.

4) Finally, everyone responds to situations differently.  Marty Thompson, director of the Health Sciences Library at the University of Oklahoma, always mentions this as being core knowledge to anyone organizing a response to an emergency.  Know who you can count on and ask them to participate.  Emergency response should be a team effort.

A Mirror Season

Did you know that there is a “mirror season” for tornadoes in the U. S.?  Because of the temperature changes in the fall in the northern hemisphere, fall weather conditions mirror, to some extent, the conditions that exist in the spring and can spawn “swarms” of tornadoes.  This is an El Nino year, which will affect all of the U.S., but especially the southern and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S. (look out Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas!), bringing a wetter and somewhat cooler winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Click here to see the NOAA page with lots of enlightening info.  The positive aspects of an El Nino year include increased moisture for drought-stricken areas as well as a dampening effect on hurricane activity during summer and fall, but  an increased chance for “organized” tornado activity in the fall goes hand-in-hand.  See the maps below from the NOAA site mentioned above for their forecast of both temperature and precipitation for the U.S. this winter.  So, especially for those in the southeast tier of U.S. states, brush off those shelter-in-place plans for your institutions’ buildings and think about preparedness at home, just in case!

NOAA Map of El Nino Temps

NOAA Map El Nino Precip

NOAA’s Hurricane Tracker

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has provided those of us in the southeastern to northeastern U. S. with an excellent risk assessment tool for hurricanes.  See their “Historical Hurricane Tracks” page/search engine at http://csc-s-maps-q.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes/viewer.html; to query their data (from 1878 in the case of Virginia) and see a map showing where major storms have passed through your area.  You can query by several means, including zip code, which produces a very specific and detailed map of the location along with dates and degree of severity of the storms, as well as their names of the ones who were given them.

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Storm Reports

At last week’s Hospital Librarians Summit, it was suggested that we link to a site that would show reports of weather-related events.  As a result, we now have a link to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center’s report of the previous day’s storms.  The link (Yesterday’s Storm Reports) is located on the right column of the Toolkit under the category Alerts and Reports.

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Goodbye winter, hello spring!

As winter bids us farewell with a few inches of snow and sub-freezing temperatures (increasingly rare here in central Virginia), we note that the likelihood of tornadoes will be increasing as the weather turns warmer.  As they say, there is no real tornado “season,” because one can happen any time and in any place, but we see that internet searchers are looking for information on tornado preparedness more often now, so here is some information that we hope will be helpful in preparing for the tumultuous spring weather than can give birth to tornadoes and other severe storms.

As always, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention web site offers excellent information and advice on tornadoes as part of their Emergency Preparedness and Response information, specifically their Natural Disasters and Severe Weather page.   Click on the “Tornado” link for some great information on what you should know and what to do before a tornado, during and afterwards.  For instance, what do you think is the most dangerous aspect of a tornado?  Where is the most dangerous place to be in a tornado?  The answers may surprise you!

Many states will be running tornado preparedness drills in March.  Here’s the Virginia site that lists information about the state-wide drill on March 17, as well as how to run a tornado drill.  Check out the information on the page about how to find the safest place inside your building to shelter from a tornado. 

NOAA weather radios are wonderful to have in your building if you are in an area that is particularly vulnerable to servere storms, or you just want to keep in touch with weather events.  They are available with a range of features and at a price range from $25 and up, from a variety of sources.  (Amazon lists many models and prices.)  Ours has alerted us several times to thunderstorms in the summer, which helped us to be prepared for possible power disruptions and wind/water damage.  The NOAA radios receive information continuously from the National Weather Service, and you can set them to sound an alert to your specific area so that the alarm doesn’t sound more often than necessary.   Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy spring season!

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