Category: Nature Related Emergencies

Hurricane Season: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Populations

“Where are we going to go?”

I remember sitting in my living room as my parents debated our options. It was September 2005, just months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Louisiana shoreline, sending thousands of evacuees into Houston. The local meteorologist had made his proclamation: my zip code was located in Evacuation Zone B, meaning it was recommended we evacuate in the event of a Level 3 Hurricane. At the time, Rita was projected to well-surpass that rating.  I will never forget the fear I felt in the pit of my stomach as I helped my family move our furniture, valuable documents, and photo albums onto the second floor of our home. I was instructed to pack some clothes and whatever treasured items would fit into my small suitcase. We packed our bags, along with an estimated 3.7 million of our neighbors throughout the Houston area and Texas Coast. In the end, though Rita ended up veering eastward and sparing my family home, many weren’t so lucky. While the process of evacuating was frightening and painful (it took us over 24 hours to make the drive from Houston to the home of a friend-of-a-friend in Dallas), we were fortunate to have the resources to make the trip.

The price of emergency preparedness is much more difficult for many of our society’s most vulnerable to bear. As the 2014 Hurricane season begins June 1st, it is important to consider how to ensure all segments of the population are adequately prepared.

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California Fires: State Prepares for Unprecedented Wildfire Season

In California, 2014 has been the year of historic & devastating wildfires. Over the past week, nearly 5,000 firefighters have battled ten wildfires that have swiftly moved across San Diego County resulting in 176,000 evacuation notices and nearly $20 million in damages. Early reports note that this wildfire season has been more devastating than previous ones with nearly twice as many fires as the average number of fires over the past five years. These fires have required at least two dozen water trucks and bulldozers, four air tankers and at least twenty-two military helicopters to be contained and have damaged an estimated 25,000 acres of land.

Cal wildfire image

(courtesy of National Geographic)

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Balkan Flooding: Worst Torrential Disaster in Region’s Recorded History

Monumental flooding from three months worth of rain falling a in few days in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia has caused more than 40 deaths and the evacuation of more than 500,000 people.  There are also concerns that thousands of people are trapped in buildings without power or communication.

Serbia

In the largest amount of flooding since the country started maintaining records 120 years ago, the River Sava has reached 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) and has flooded the town of Obrenovac, approximately 35 kilometers (22.7 miles) southwest from the capital of Belgrade.  Near Obrenovac is the Nikola Tesla power plant complex that supplies nearly half of the country with coal-generated electricity.  The flooding threatens to leave millions of people in Serbia without power.  Along the river’s path, residents of another 11 towns have been ordered to evacuate. Along the Danube River, a thermal power plant in Kostolac that supplies 20% of the nation’s power also confronts significant water damage, and workers are attempting to protect it with sandbags.  An estimated 300,000 people are without safe drinking water and electricity.  

serbia map

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Tornadoes in the US: Storm Preparedness and Mental Health Response after Natural Disasters

Tornadoes ripped through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa in the past month month, leaving 16 people dead and homes, businesses, and schools completely leveled. The event was classified as an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which uses an assessment of the damages caused to classify the wind speed of a tornado. This storm comes only three years after one of the deadliest tornado events ever recorded killed 348 people in the South and Midwest, a region known as Tornado Alley.  Historically, the US is seeing an upward trend in annual tornadoes.

 

Annual Tornadoes 1950-2012_Goodland region

Enhanced Fujita Scale

(www.crh.noaa.gov)

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