Survival-Pax Blog: June 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Small Tornadoes - Severe Weather Preparedness

The area around my home was hit with some pretty severe weather during mid last week. No worries, my house was fine with surprisingly little to no damage to my immediate neighborhood.

The damage was very isolated. One tree is snapped like a toothpick,
while another only 50 feet away is upright as if nothing happened.
I actually wasn't home at the time, but remember hearing the wind roaring and the windows shaking in the building that I was in. Not paying much attention to the weather reports for that day, I didn't know that there were going to be severe thunderstorms in the area. They surprised me when they did hit.

I left to drive home after the storm was over and I noticed that most of the lights were out, including traffic lights and lights to people's homes. I later found out that over 400,000 people were without power after the storm. The damage to the infrastructure was so severe that many people were out of power for days.

As I drove, I also noticed how strange the damage was. It was very isolated. Some trees were totally snapped in half, while trees only about 50 feet away seemed untouched. It was night when I was driving home, so I didn't see much until the next day. As I drove, though, I made sure to watch out for downed power lines, which can be lethal and very difficult to see at night.

Downed power lines are dangerous. Stay clear of them when
driving through an area hit by a storm.
After getting home, I saw that my house still had power, so things were more or less normal for me, which is more than could be said for others that got hit with the blunt of the storm.

During the next day, I went for a drive around my neighborhood to survey the damage. Like I mentioned, the area around my home seemed more or less damage-free. Driving only a half a mile away, I saw a lot more damage. It is surprised me how isolated the damage was, until I heard about what actually went through the area.

According to the National Weather Service, a small tornado touched down and traveled for about 2 miles through the area. That explains why the damage was so isolated. The accompanying 90-100 mph winds snapped trees, but left houses undamaged, as far as I saw. Things that got destroyed were mainly from fallen trees, some of them even being uprooted. I should also mention that there were no reported injuries from the storm.

I posted a Facebook Album of photos that I took during the storm. Click HERE to see the album.

How to Prepare?

Well on the scale of local disasters, this one ranks pretty low. Still, being without power for a few days could be difficult for anyone. A good idea is to have a generator and extra gasoline, to at least keep refrigerated food from spoiling.
A good flashlight, such as this Quark 123² Turbo is
essential for any disaster, because night is falling soon
and you can be guaranteed that it'll get dark out.

A good flashlight and spare batteries is critical for either cleanup at night or just walking around at home when the power goes out. It is a good idea to have one for every member of the family.

Food & Water
At least a week's worth of non-perishable food and a few gallons of drinking water would also be a good idea to have in case you can't get to a supermarket or get to fresh water for one reason or another.

Emergency Supplies in Vehicle
Looking at what happened to me, how I was not at home when the disaster hit, I only had with me what was on my person and in my vehicle. It is a good idea to have some basic supplies in your vehicle, such as a first aid kit, work gloves, drinking water, snacks, folding saw, fixed blade knife, blanket, tarp, jumper cables, etc. While I didn't need to use any of these, if I did come across a situation where I needed to help someone or even clear a road because of a fallen branch or tree, I would have been prepared to do so. You can have the best preparations at home, but if they're not with you when disaster strikes, you might as well not have them. Remember that.

Chain Saw
Since most of the damage was to trees, clearing them out was the biggest chore for residents in neighborhoods that got hit hard by the storm. A good chainsaw is an invaluable tool and time saver for jobs like this. People that didn't have them waited to be "rescued" by those that did. Most of the people who did do the clearing were contracted by local governments, but even they had their hands full and it would be a few days until all of the trees were cleared.

The damage from the storm that hit last week wasn't too bad, considering that it was an actual tornado that swept through the area. There were a lot of good lessons to be learned in preparation for larger scale disasters. It's always good to be prepared since, sooner or later, some kind of a disaster will inevitably impact you or the area that you live in.

Take care!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Solar Flare Misses Earth

So, as some of you may know, a large Solar Flare narrowly missed the Earth earlier this week. This may not seem like big news, and it really wasn't, but if the flare had impacted Earth, the story would have been different.

What is a Solar Flare?

A Solar Flare is a burst of electromagnetic radiation and high energy particles from the surface of the sun out towards space. The electromagnetic radiation in the form of x-rays can reach the Earth in a few minutes, and generally does not cause many problems. The high energy particles, however, can take days to reach the Earth and when they reach it, can destroy satellites, spacecraft. These particles can also disrupt power delivery from power plants, effectively causing blackouts for days, weeks or even months! Can you imagine what would happen if your city was out of power for a month?

Watch the video to see how the Solar Flare looked like when it erupted from the surface of the sun.

The last massive Solar Flare happened in 1859, when the world was much less technologically advanced. People were able to see auroras world-wide and telegraph communication was interrupted for weeks. Now imagine what would happen if that flare had hit the Earth today?
Auroras may look pretty, but seeing one followed by a
massive power outage probably wouldn't be.

How to prepare?

A folding knife or flashlight probably won't help you very much. If a massive Solar Flare were to impact the Earth and knock out a large portion of satellite communications and power to much of the United States, I would say that that's about as bad a disaster as I can imagine happening. You can expect a situation where society would quickly break down as people's food goes bad in the refrigerator, as their jobs are unavailable due to lack of power, as they have to live in the dark. It would be like throwing a wrench into the gears of society and everything would stop.

The best way to prepare for such a HUGE disaster would be to have a large stockpile of food (at least 6 months), water, possibly a backup generator. Basically, you would want to make yourself as self-sufficient as possible, since society would not be able to support you for the near future. While a massive Solar Flare impacting the Earth isn't likely to happen at any given moment, the possibility of one happening is there and the results would be catastrophic if it did happen. It really is only a matter of time until it does happen.

Take care!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

Sources Used:
PCMag. Massive Solar Flare Misses Earth, but Are We Ready for the Big One?,2817,2386623,00.asp

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