Recent Storm Damage Posts

When Storms or Floods hit Long Island, SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington is ready!

6/21/2018 (Permalink)

Our highly trained crews are ready to respond 24/7 to storm or flood damage in Long Island.

SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington specializes in storm and flood damage restoration.  Our crews are highly trained and we use specialized equipment to restore your property to its pre-storm condition.

Faster Response

Since we are locally owned and operated, we are able to respond quicker with the right resources, which is extremely important. A fast response lessens the damage, limits further damage, and reduces the restoration cost.

Resources to Handle Floods and Storms

When storms hit Long island, we can scale our resources to handle a large storm or flooding disaster. We can access equipment and personnel from a network of 1,650 Franchises across the country and elite Disaster Recovery Teams that are strategically located throughout the United States.

Have Storm or Flood Damage? Call Us Today 516-767-9600.

Damage after a Storm in a Flood Zone

6/7/2018 (Permalink)

Flooded basement after a Storm in Freeport, New York

During violent storms Freeport, NY is one area that is prone to flooding. Extensive rain often leaks into your home from the outside, this basement in Freeport, NY was flooded due to a storm.

There are three major types of water (Clean water, gray water and black water, which might include external flooding) In this special case this basement was flooded with black water that contains pathogenic agents and is grossly unsanitary. Floods can completely inundate your home or business causing a lot of damage to the structure and contents.

SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington was brought in to assess the damages in the property, our crew quickly assisted removing standing water from the area, along with assorting content to determinate which content was salvageable, after removing the affected content we cleaned and disinfected the area and proceeded to set up special drying equipment.

SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington has the experience, equipment and products necessary to handle any type of water damage.

2018 Hurricane Season Predictions

6/6/2018 (Permalink)

Satellite NOAA photo
Satellite image by NOAA

NOAA has predicted a normal to above normal  season for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season this year, which occurs from June 1 through November 30.  

What is normal?  This prediction indicates the Atlantic coast could see 10-16 named storms, 5-9 of which could be hurricanes.  Of those, 1-4 could result in major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.  These major hurricanes could be categories 3, 4 or 5 and can create significant damage and destruction. 

Doing as many preventative steps as you can before storm season has begun can help to minimize your damages and losses.  Trim any trees and branches that are heavy, dead, or a threat to personal property, electric wires or a structure.  Round up any loose items that could become airborne.  Secure and fasten down large items that must remain but could become airborne or move in flooding.  

Make hurricane shutters cutting plywood to fit all windows and doors, secure all rolling overhead garage doors from inside, make sure all drains, gutters and downspouts are clear and drain away from the property.

Use proper personal safety.  If there is a regional evacuation - secure your property and evacuate.  If warnings instruct you to remain off the roads, do so.  Flash floods are very dangerous and very unpredictable.  SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington is here to help clean up any storm damage.  

Commercial Storm Damage - Long Island, NY

5/29/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Storm Damage - Long Island, NY

Storm damage to a commercial building that cannot have downtime needs to be mitigated quickly - often while occupied and with operations underway. SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington works under all types of constraints and needs.

This building suffered water damage from damaged roofing during a storm.  The property was cleaned and restored quickly, allowing the staff to get back to work with minimal disruption. Often we have conducted overnight remediation, to avoid any disruption to the company business and to make sure the space is back up and running.

Our work is guaranteed, and our entire crew is trained, professional, and dedicated to providing excellent services and treating your office or facility with respect. 

We are always here to help our customers 24/7.

Hurricane Season 2018

5/29/2018 (Permalink)

Hurricane season 2018

Reprinted by

It's far too early to say if another Sandy is headed to New York City in 2018, but early predictions are that this year's hurricane season is going to be an active one.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a "near or above normal" hurricane outlook. In releasing the annual Atlantic outlook Thursday, officials said they anticipate 10 to 16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those, five to nine could become hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.

"We're predicting 10 to 16 tropical storms. The average is 12," explained lead hurricane season forecaster Gerry Bell with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "We're expecting a near average season which means a lot of storms forming in the Atlantic."

Bell said the forecast has a 70 percent probability of occurrence. "We would expect our range of hurricanes to be correct 70 percent of the time and they are," he explained.

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes – including three major hurricanes.

Sudden Rains Cause Flash Flooding Woes On Long Island

8/18/2017 (Permalink)

August 2017 Flash Flooding On Long Island, NY

Sudden rains today on Long Island on this August day caught many by surprise - businesses and homes were suddenly awash with water and our phones began to light up.  Often when the water intrusion is from ground level and underground from the rain itself, the rain activity needs to stop before we can mitigate and dry - though we can pump to keep waters from rising.  When water floods from above from a roof leak, we also cannot dry until the rain has ceased.  In the interim we do whatever we can to staunch the flow - from simple buckets and barrels to installing ceiling redirects to keep the water from landing where you don't want it - and remove standing water to keep damage to a minimum.

Storm Damage to Assisted Living Facilities Are No Problem for SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington!

6/20/2017 (Permalink)

Common Areas - Dining Room, Assisted Living Facility

When spring rains come to Long Island, coastal flooding in low lying areas are expected, but often buildings under construction or renovation can be caught unawares and then run the risk of varying degrees of damage.  

This assisted-living facility in Glen Cove, NY has been under renovation with extensive construction to the roof under way.  The force and flow of the water for a recent storm proved to be too much for temporary measures to be able to deflect the water.

Rain entered the roof and flowed down into the common areas which stayed operational during the entire process. SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington was able to dry out the building to the delight of the residents and staff, who were able to resume activities.

Children's Facility Suffers Water Damage

2/16/2017 (Permalink)

3rd floor water situation

This facility had suffered water damage on multiple floors from a roof that leaked through a storm.  SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington was called in to mitigate the water and restore the building.  

Water was saturating carpeting, plywood sub-floors, drywall, and some mechanical systems in areas that the children are present and areas they are not.  

We came in, extracted the water, cut out and removed the drywall that was affected, removed moisture from the air and filtered the air, with the goal of drying out the space so that they could resume the childcare services.  

In situations where water enters from above like this, multiple floors can be affected as water runs down through walls and openings.  It is always wise to have a licensed electrical contractor come in to make sure that the electrical systems are not damaged or compromised. 

We are here for any water, fire, mold, sewage situation!  Call us at 516-767-9600 for cleanup & restoration.

Storm Damaged Home Gyms - Can You Use the Equipment?

1/27/2017 (Permalink)

home gym gets flooded

When Hurricane Irene hit Long Island, this home gym suffered when water poured through a hole in the roof, filling this lower level fitness room.  

SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington removed wallboard and carpet, drying out the space.  But when this happens to you, what is safe to reuse and what is not? 

If equipment has no electrical components and is not porous or rusted, it very likely is salvageable - like rubber coated dumbells, kettleballs, bands and machinery that operate by cables and weights.  If equipment has electrical components that have touched or been exposed to water or excessive moisture, it may still operate.  However, that does not mean it is safe to use as degraded electrical components can cause a fire or shock later on down the road.  They need to be inspected by a licensed electrician or replaced.  

Make sure when discarding anything that is electrically damaged that you cut off the cord short to the unit so that it doesn't get repurposed by someone on garbage pickup day.  

Storm Damage from Hurricane Irene Causes Secondary Damage

1/27/2017 (Permalink)

Hurricane Irene Damage

This home was hit by Hurricane Irene and experienced significant water intrusion and flooding.  In the high humidity, the moisture was slow to dissipate and mold began to grow.

When the homeowners realized the problem was getting worse, they called us!  We came in to do cleanup and restoration, drying out the home and removing all of the affected building materials.  When water enters a structure, the quicker it is dried out the less mold or chance of mold you will have.  We are equipped with industrial quality equipment to get you back to "like it never happened" fast!  

SERVPRO teams can be onsite within hours, ready to extract and pump out water and set up air movers and equipment to dry out open and enclosed areas, with the goal of reducing your moisture levels quickly to levels that do not support mold.   SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington is here for you, 24/7.  Call:  516-767-9600

Hurricane Damage Destroy Interiors Too

1/27/2017 (Permalink)

This home suffered extensive hurricane damage to interior walls, ceilings and floors that experienced water intrusion, and subsequently mold.  

When water is held within wall spaces or even in drywall or carpet and the moisture in the air has a high humidity level the drying will be slow if at all.  When the air is filled, there is nowhere for retained water to go.  

The wall you see was very wet and could not dry - the drywall and wall coverings needed to be removed and the interior stud space needed to be dried out before it was restored.  

When a home or commercial building need help, look no further than your local SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington.  We are here for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Call 516-767-9600



When Storms or Floods hit Long Island, SERVPRO is ready!

5/20/2016 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Great Neck/Port Washington specializes in storm and flood damage restoration.  Our crews are highly trained and we use specialized equipment to restore your property to its pre-storm condition.

Faster Response

Since we are locally owned and operated, we are able to respond quicker with the right resources, which is extremely important. A fast response lessens the damage, limits further damage, and reduces the restoration cost.

Resources to Handle Floods and Storms

When storms hit Long Island, New York, we can scale our resources to handle a large storm or flooding disaster. We can access equipment and personnel from a network of 1,650 Franchises across the country and elite Disaster Recovery Teams (View our Storm Response info) that are strategically located throughout the United States.

Have Storm or Flood Damage? Call Us Today 516-767-9600 

Hurricane Danny 2015

8/20/2015 (Permalink)

Hurricane Danny formed a few days ago as a Tropical Storm and has progressed to Hurricane status while offshore.  Danny is the first official hurricane for the Atlantic region for 2015 - so we are watching it's trajectory closely to see if it will make landfall and if it will travel up to Long Island, NY. 

We recommend getting the free Hurricane Tracker app by the American Red Cross from you mobile device's app store.  Get updates and be informed of current hurricane info in real time. 

#HurricaneDanny #2015 #LongIsland #NY #NewYork

How to prevent roof ice dams, other winter weather home damage

2/9/2015 (Permalink)

Roof ice dams:
• clean debris, snow and ice from gutters and down spouts.
• Use a roof rake to clear snow from your roof.
• Make sure your attic is sufficiently insulated and ventilated. Maintaining airflow from under the eaves of soffit area through roof vents helps prevent ice dams. Click here for insulation guidelines.

Prevent frozen pipes:
• if you leave for several days, don't turn your heat down all the way. You also can drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems).
• Insulate pipes, especially those near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic. You also can add special heat tape or thermostat-controlled cables to pipes.
• Use caulk or insulation to seal air leaks near electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes.
• Disconnect garden hoses shut off and drain pipes leading to outside faucets.
• Keep a trickle of warm water running overnight from a faucet near an exterior wall.
• Open all cabinet doors under sinks.

If you discover frozen pipes, Fremont Insurance recommends you shut off the water, call a plumber and your insurance agent, and be aware of potential electric shock in and around standing water. Don't try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame or torch.

The Year in Disasters: A Look Back at 2014's 7 Most Catastrophic Events

1/27/2015 (Permalink)

Life was good in 2014.

For example, we saw a continuation of the previous year's relatively low overall catastrophic damage totals, according to CoreLogic's "Natural Hazard Risk" analysis report, which provides a summary and analysis of the most significant natural disasters of the year.

The U.S. has not experienced a single natural hazard that cost in the tens of billions of dollars since Superstorm Sandy ravaged parts of the East Coast in 2012.

However, calling 2014 a "quiet" year is not entirely accurate, as locally devastating events can wreak major destruction and drive losses. Late summer flooding caused widespread damage in Detroit and Phoenix, an April tornado outbreak killed dozens in the south and destroyed more than 400 homes, and an August earthquake in Napa Valley had a $2 billion impact on the wine industry.

Below and on the following pages, CoreLogic details 2014's most catastrophic events.


The 2014 hurricane season was the second consecutive year of low tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean. Last year, there were only eight named North Atlantic storms, six of which became hurricanes. And of those six, just two developed into a major hurricane (those that are Category 3 or larger).

Hurricane Arthur, the first named storm of the season, struck North Carolina on July 3. Because of its slow-moving path toward the north-northeast, its damage was relatively minor and primarily restricted to power outages and flooding.

"No other tropical storms or hurricanes caused damage or had any appreciable effect along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. in 2014," the report states.

The report authors hypothesized that the high levels of wind shear in the Atlantic, and stable temperature and moisture conditions impeded hurricane development.


Damage attributed to flooding in 2014 was below average, totaling $4.2 billion in losses for the year (the long-term historical average in the U.S. is $5.3 billion).

These events weren't limited to one area of the U.S. in 2014, but the largest property losses took place in larger metropolitan areas. Urban damage due to flash flood events causes substantial property loss, as a city storm water system is connected to the sewer. Flash floods quickly overwhelm these storm water drains and cause sewers to backup into property basements, the report says.

On Aug. 11, the Detroit Metro Airport received 4.57 inches of rainfall, which is the second-heaviest single day of rainfall on record in Michigan. The flooding caused more than $1.1 billion in damage and affected 118,000 homes and businesses in the area.

Just two days later, 13.27 inches of rain fell over the course of one day at Long Island's MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y., which surpassed the estimated 7 inches of rainfall that occurred during Superstorm Sandy and also set a one-day record for the state.

And on Sept. 8, the Phoenix metro area experienced a record-setting 3.29 inches of rainfall, which caused widespread property damage due to Phoenix's relatively flat landscape.


Despite frequent hail storms, 2014 will go down as quiet for claims activity. Last year's hail covered the largest geographic area in the past decade, but nearly 62% of the total hail fall was sized at less than one inch in diameter, and 96% was sized at less than 1.5 inches. For the largest hail sizes (greater than 3 inches), last year ranked lowest on record for the past nine years.

Knowing accurate hail sizes is just as important as knowing where hail occurred when considering loss, CoreLogic reports. "Widespread hail fall does not always coincide with widespread areas of larger, more severe hail."


Based on data through August 2014, just 720 tornadoes were verified through the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. Even if every storm report from September through the end of the year was processed and verified, the potential total would be 848, CoreLogic reports, which makes 2014 comparable to the two previous years in terms of total tornadoes and well below busier years like 2008 and 2011.

But a low tornado count does not guarantee an absence of severe physical damage or loss of life. On April 27, residents of Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark., suffered through an EF4 tornado that destroyed between 400-500 homes and claimed 16 lives. The following day also brought severe weather conditions, damaged property and loss of life to Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.


Although Florida is the state most well-known for sinkhole events, it was Kentucky that experienced the most newsworthy event in 2014. In February, a sinkhole opened underneath the floor of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Eight cars fell into the hole, and the cost to repair the facility was estimated at more than $3 million.


"The 2014 wildfire season was a series of contradictions," CoreLogic reports. "California had more wildfire activity than ever before, but little property loss or damage." 

Despite drought conditions, which contribute to wildfire growth, 2014 saw the second-fewest number of fires and the lowest wildfire acreage loss in the past 10 years. One possible explanation for the lack of wildfire damage could be that response and suppression efforts were quick, extensive and successful, CoreLogic hypothesizes. Contributing to this theory? Large-scale airplane and helicopter mobilization efforts are effective, but expensive. In California, the response to wildfire activity depleted the state's entire wildfire response budget in the first three months of the fiscal year.

Increased public awareness and community mitigation efforts also contributed to the reduction in wildfire damage. The installation of fire-resistant roofing and siding material, vent screens and other methods have proven to be effective against home ignitions.

Still, 2014 was not without loss. A total of 45,468 fires occurred as of October 2014, consuming 3.4 million acres of land. The largest fire of the year ravaged eastern Oregon in July when the Buzzard Complex Fire burned through nearly 400,000 acres. In July, the largest fire in Washington state history (Carlton Complex Fire) covered 256,000 acres and destroyed 322 homes.


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year, but many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have small magnitudes. The National Earthquake Center locates about 50 earthquakes per day, or about 20,000 each year. 

In the U.S., California, unsurprisingly, was in the spotlight in 2014. A 6.8 magnitude temblor shook Humboldt County, located in the northwest part of the state on March 9, followed by a 4.4 earthquake in the Los Angeles area on March 17. SoCal wasn't spared, as yet another quake occurred on March 28 in the L.A. vicinity. CoreLogic estimates that damages from these three events were minimal.

However, the Golden State experienced its worst seismic event of the year when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Napa Valley on August. 24, causing $2.1 billion in damage.

"Geologically, the San Francisco Bay region is underlain by many softer soils, commonly referred to as bay mud. Historically, it has been observed that softer soils amplify ground motions and contribute to a disproportionate amount of damage," CoreLogic reports.

This event primarily caused commercial losses, damaging a number of historic buildings in downtown Napa. Business interruption losses were also a major concern, due to the heavy reliance on tourism in the region. Non-structural damage, such as broken wine bottles and barrels, as well as substantial sprinkler leakage, was observed.

Away from California, the USGS reports that the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50% since October 2013. According to the organization, 580 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or higher happened in Oklahoma and Kansas in 2014, as compared to the years of 1978-2008, where only two 3.0 tremor events happened annually. The USGS reports that the increase coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells.

Top 3 Costliest Winter Weather Claims and More!

12/19/2014 (Permalink)

Living in the Northeast, many homeowners may dislike the cold and think snow is a major inconvenience.

The frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall in cold-weather states, along with wind and hail storms in other areas, can cause damage to homes, and in many instances result in homeowners needing to file an insurance claim.

The Hartford recently analyzed homeowner claims data from the last five full winters (December to March) and conducted an online survey of 184 of its property adjusters to find out what are the costliest winter claims. The analysis also determined the five most common winter weather claims and the top five U.S. states for winter weather claims.

Here are the top 3:

3. Tree collapse (Average Claim Cost: $6,000)

Trees in the western U.S. are generally larger than in other parts of the country and claims in this area average more than $10,000. By comparison, tree collapse claims range on average from $3,000 to $5,000 in the northeast, midwest, and south.

The Hartford recommends regularly assessing the trees and other vegetation on your property. Weakened tree limbs can easily come down in windy weather, so the company suggests maintaining and trimming trees near the home that could fall on the house, other buildings or vehicles, before storm season.

2. Hail damage (Average Claim Cost: $10,000)

In the south, it is three times more common than in other areas. Roof damage from hail is more likely at the end of winter and can lead to claims that average $10,000.

Claims for hail damage are often filed late because the damage isn’t always easy to see. After a large hail storm, a homeowner may want to consider hiring a professional to examine the roof if they’re not able to safely inspect it. Filing an insurance claim as soon as damage is noticed allows the insurance company to start working with the homeowner sooner to minimize the damage.

1. Frozen pipes (Average Claim Cost: $18,000)

According to The Hartford, the costliest cold weather claim is frozen pipes.

While most common in the northeast and midwest, frozen pipes happen in all areas of the country and average about $18,000 per claim.

The Hartford’s adjusters recommend learning where the water shut-off is before you're faced with a frozen pipe or water leak. If damage occurs from a water leak or frozen pipe, a homeowner may need to find a service company to help clean up the mess, which may help save money and prevent further damage.

To help homeowners prepare for the worst winter can throw at them, The Hartford suggests the following tips:

  • Perform seasonal maintenance: Have the heating system serviced on an annual basis, including testing to make sure the heat is working throughout the home. It’s also important to insulate any pipes that are susceptible to freezing and unhook hoses from outdoor faucets.
  • Prepare for winter storms: Move vehicles off the street and/or away from large tree limbs. Have the snow blower serviced. Become familiar with how to trip the manual release on overhead garage door openers and have shovels ready ahead of the storm.
  • Stock up on supplies: In the event of an extended power outage, have bottled water and non-perishable foods, clothing and blankets, batteries and flashlights. It’s also helpful to have a supply of rock salt, other ice melt or sand, in case the stores run out during a storm.

Half of The Hartford's adjusters surveyed say they begin preparing their own homes for winter at the end of summer, around Labor Day. Another 45% said they start as soon as the first cold front hits. Only 4% said they wait for a specific storm warning.

In the event that a customer does need to file an insurance claim after winter storm damage, The Hartford's adjusters recommend homeowners avoid making the most common claim filing mistakes: Not trying to mitigate or limit damage while waiting for an adjuster to arrive, waiting to file a claim, and throwing away items without taking an inventory or capturing documentation.

Calling All Landlords: Be Sure Snow Removal is Done Right!

12/17/2014 (Permalink)

By Rosalie L. Donlon

Winter officially starts on Dec. 21, but many areas of the country have already dealt with several feet of snow and ice.

This kind weather can be especially troublesome for landlords. When those areas aren’t cleared well, the landlord may face claims from tenants who fall on slippery sidewalks.

For example, there was once a woman who worked in a building in Chicago that had stairs leading to its entrance. One winter morning on her way to work, the woman found that the stairway, normally wide enough to accommodate three people walking abreast, had only been shoveled in the center of the stairs, creating a path about the width of a shovel. The stairs also contained patches of impacted snow on the shoveled portions caused by other people walking on the stairs. Toward the sides of the stairway, in the unshoveled portions, the snow was about a foot deep. The woman slipped on the top step of the stairway, fell down the remaining steps and was injured.

In her lawsuit against the landlord of the building, the woman claimed that:

  • It was the landlord’s duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the stairway and entrance in reasonably safe condition;
  • The landlord’s employees negligently shoveled ice and snow from the entrance and stairway leaving more than half still covered; and
  • The landlord knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.
  • The court found that under Illinois law, the landlord owes no duty to the tenants to remove "natural accumulations of snow and ice from common areas, such as the stairway, that remain under its control." In this case, the court said, “Although no independent duty exists upon a landlord to shovel a natural accumulation of snow on his property, liability can arise from the negligent performance of a voluntary undertaking.” By voluntarily shoveling a path on the stairway, the landlord then obligated itself to clear the snow with reasonable care. The evidence showed that the handrail was inaccessible from the shoveled path, and the woman had slipped on the step on which snow had accumulated. According to the court, there was a question of fact whether an accessible handrail would have prevented the woman from falling or helped her when she did start to fall.

    What’s a landlord to do? The obligation to clear sidewalks after a snowstorm and within a certain time limit—24 hours after the snow stops in some places—is regulated by local law in most cases. Commercial landlords and tenants should check the terms of their leases and be sure they’re clear on who is responsible for snow removal. If it’s your responsibility, be sure to do it right or face potential lawsuits from people who might slip.

    Hurricane Season Largely Passed Long Island By

    12/5/2014 (Permalink)

    Reprinted by

    Long Island got a welcome pass this season from hurricane activity, with the only minor impact being ripple effects from the fringes of Hurricane Arthur, which tracked well to the east on the Fourth of July.

    Indeed, overall it "will be remembered as a relatively quiet season," as was predicted, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a wrap-up of the Atlantic season that started June 1 and ended Sunday.

    Arthur came the closest to the Island, "but no direct impacts were felt other than larger waves, higher surf, higher rip current activity, and prolonged rain through the day," said John Murray, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton.

    In all, there were eight named storms -- from Arthur in July to Hanna in October -- with seven to 12 predicted in the August outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

    Six of those storms became hurricanes, with three to six predicted. Of them, two became major, category 3 or up -- Edouard in September and Gonzalo in October -- with zero to two predicted.

    That's compared to the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six becoming hurricanes with three of them becoming major, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    As for an average hurricane season locally, "it's hard to say what normal is," Murray said, "since tropical storms and hurricanes are generally rare for Long Island . . . it's hard to quantify."

    This year was quiet, he said, and "you can have multiple quiet years." Some years the area might be impacted to varying degrees by remnants of passing storms, and at some point there's a direct or nearby hit, such as that of Irene in late August 2011. And, of course, October 2012 brought "the very large impacts of post-tropical cyclone Sandy."

    With that kind of variation, "each season bears watching," he said. As for this year, "a combination of atmospheric conditions" helped suppress hurricane development, including "very strong vertical wind shear, combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic," said Gerry Bell, the prediction center's lead hurricane forecaster. "Also, the West African monsoon was near to below average, making it more difficult for African easterly waves to develop."

    "Fortunately, much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year with only one landfalling hurricane along the East Coast," said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Weather Service and a Bethpage native.

    "Nevertheless," he said, "we know that's not always going to be the case."

    Insurance Losses From Winter Storms in 2014 Likely to Reach $2.5 Billion

    12/3/2014 (Permalink)

    Reprinted from the Consumer Insurance Guide

    With an arctic cold surge and heavy snow accumulations in large parts of the United States last week, potential hazards exist for homeowners and drivers alike, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

    A repeat of this past winter’s deep freeze is possible. All that cold, ice and snow translates into frozen pipes, collapsed roofs, auto accidents and slip-and-fall injuries. In fact, insurance data give us another way to describe just how cold last winter was and how cold it’s likely to be this year.

    “Severe winter weather is the third-largest cause of insured catastrophe losses, after hurricanes and tornadoes,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. and an economist. “Losses from snow, ice, freezing and related causes averaged $1.2 billion annually over the past twenty years,” he said. “This year insured losses from severe winter events will be at least double that amount, likely exceeding $2.5 billion by year’s end, making 2014 the fourth costliest year on record for winter storm losses,” Hartwig added.

    “Winter storm claims, including those associated with freezing and ice damage, accounted for 6.4 percent of all insured catastrophe losses between 1994 and 2013, placing it third behind hurricanes and tropical storms (41 percent) and tornadoes (36 percent) as the costliest natural disasters,” Dr. Hartwig said, adding that 2013 winter losses totaled $1.8 billion.

    This year it’s even worse. Even before cold and snow once again gripped much of the nation this month, Munich Re reported there were already 11 winter storms and cold waves occurring in the January through March period, causing 84 fatalities and an estimated $2.4 billion in insured losses. In fact, the Polar Vortex event that took place January 5-8 caused freezing, wind, ice and snow in 17 states and cost nearly $1.7 billion in insured losses, according to Property Claims Service for Verisk Insurance Solutions.

    Indeed, in the first quarter of 2014 the Eastern U.S. experienced its coldest winter in over a decade, according to Munich Re. And America as a whole is experiencing its coldest November since 1976, Weather Bell models noted.

    Auto claims always spike in the winter, thanks to snowy, icy roads but this past winter was worse. According to data from Verisk’s Insurance Services Office, 42 states saw auto insurance claims rise in the first quarter of 2014, compared with a year earlier. Several upper Midwest states (Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan) saw collision claims rise over 20 percent. Countrywide, claim frequency rose 8.5 percent from a year earlier.

    The effects spilled over into the workplace. Winter-related slip-and-fall claims at Midwestern workplaces doubled in 2013-2014 from the previous year, according to Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and United Heartland, specialists in workers compensation insurance. Such accidents represent 29 percent of all workers compensation claims.

    Driving on snow and ice:

    Keep a good distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead. Periodically, keep an eye on your rearview window.

    Even if daylight, during snow storms, keep your headlights on during the day but do avoid bright lights at night.

    Allow plenty of time to get to your destination.

    Make sure your cellphone is charged and an emergency driving kit with a flash light and batteries are in working order.

    Reduce your speed and avoid sudden stops.

    Make sure your gas tank is full.

    Cruise control should not be activated if roads are icy.

    Make sure your gas tank is full or at least above a half a tank.

    Keep your tires properly inflated.

    Protect your home:

    Add insulation to pipes on outside walls that are at risk to freeze

    Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working

    Check your trees and see what needs to be removed as far as weak limbs that can cause real damage to your home

    Any major home improvements, new pipes, wiring, roofing, and other safety measures may qualify you for home insurance discounts up to 20% reduction.

    Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

    11/19/2014 (Permalink)

    Provided by The Red Cross

    Being prepared and informed may help you to avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes. The American Red Cross provides information and suggestions around how to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.

    Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

    Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the "strength" of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

    Preventing Frozen Pipes

    Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.  
  • To Thaw Frozen Pipes  

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too. 
  • Arctic Outbreak to Bring Coldest Air of Season; Subzero Temperatures Possible

    11/10/2014 (Permalink)

    A taste of mid-winter is in store for a large swath of the nation this week. Arctic air has begun spilling into the north-central U.S., and it will bring the coldest air by far of this young fall-winter season to much of the central and eastern U.S.

    The cold this time will last longer and will be more widespread than other cold surges we have seen so far this season. By the end of the week, more than two-thirds of the U.S. will see below-average temperatures, and some areas could drop below zero during this cold snap. 

    The cold front has already begun its plunge. Colder temperatures arrived in Montana and the Dakotas late Sunday and will spread across more of the Plains Monday. Judith Basin and Porphyry, Montana dipped below zero early Monday morning. Subzero wind chills plunged as far south as Casper, Wyoming.

    The cold front is expected to reach the Northeast by Thursday, with the brunt of the cold first being felt by Friday. High temperatures won't likely top 50 degrees Thursday in Washington, D.C. The last time that happened was on March 26. New York City may see its first freeze sometime late this week and Boston may also drop to 32 degrees, which last occurred on April 18. While the worst of the cold will remain in the nation's heartland, chilly daytime highs in the 30s and 40s will linger in the I-95 corridor through next week.

    The large expanse of cold air will allow any storm systems crossing the country to bring the potential for wintry weather:

    - One area of low pressure could bring a rain/snow mix to parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast late in the week. Snow, if any, should be light. 

    - A second system could bring snow and ice much farther south this weekend. This wintry weather could spread to parts of the East Coast by early next week, but it's too early to be confident in any details.

    New Map Can Track Hurricane Flooding From Florida to Maine

    11/7/2014 (Permalink)

    Storm surge from Hurricane Andrew swept cars, boats, and houses inland in South Miami-Dade County in 1992.

    With about 22 million people vulnerable to dangerous hurricane storm surges, forecasters have long struggled over how to issue warnings, especially in low-lying Florida, where waters can rise far inland.

    Now they have an interactive map that tracks flooding not only by location, but storm strength.

    Published Thursday, the map for the first time links the coast from Texas to Maine, said Brian Zachary, a National Hurricane Center storm surge specialist. Forecasters used thousands of hypothetical hurricanes and factored in local coastal topography along with levees, canals and other structures to determine flooding.

    In Florida, they found that about 40 percent of the population could face flooding in a powerful storm.

    “Storm surge isn’t just, ‘I live on the coast. OK, I’m vulnerable,’” Zachary said. “It can go 10, 15 or 30 miles inland.”

    The maps are an improvement on the disconnected grids forecasters had previously used that sometimes left the public confused. The new map lets users choose the strength size, then zoom in and out of locations, tracking flooding, which is measured at three, six and nine feet above ground.

    Not surprisingly, only a narrow ribbon of coast south of downtown Miami is expected to flood in a Category 1 storm. But jump to a Category 5 hurricane and the south end of the county, including Kendall, Cutler Bay, Homestead, Florida City and all of the Everglades, would sit under six to nine feet of water. Under the same scenario farther north, the central part of the county stretches like a chain of ragged keys, with dry land forming a narrow corridor around Southwest Eighth Street between Miami and West Miami. The northern half of Miami-Dade and northern Broward County fare much better.

    The map arrives just as a mostly quiet Atlantic hurricane season winds down. Rather than wait until next year, Zachary said forecasters decided to release it now to give residents more time to study it and contact local emergency managers for information on evacuation plans.

    “This is for the general public to look at and say, ‘OK, I’m in a storm surge area and what should I do?’” Zachary said.

    Prepping for Winter

    11/5/2014 (Permalink)

    For those who live in a nice warm climate that doesn't shift for the seasons, the coming of winter brings significantly fewer chores. However, those who live in changing climates can save some money by completing a few pre-winter chores.

    Clean It

    Starting the winter with a clean furnace will save fuel costs during the cold months. Make an appointment now to have your furnace or oil burner serviced before it starts working overtime during the cold weather. A cleaner furnace can save up to 5% of fuel costs over the course of the year compared to a dirty one.

    Get out the ladder and the washrag and clean your spot lights. If your home has outdoor lighting, it has dust and dirt on its light globes. Clean them off now before the winter weather comes and they'll burn brighter all winter long when the days are shorter and the nights seem darker.

    Seal It

    Look over your home and make sure that cold air stays out and warm air stays in. Grab a tube of caulk as you take the walk and seal any openings around windows, doors, vents, and electrical wires. You'll also want to seal any openings to prevent mice from sneaking in to enjoy your warm winter air.

    While walking around your home, tighten outside faucets and remove hoses. These could burst if the water in the pipe freezes. If possible, turn off the water to the faucet and let it open. That will guarantee that any remaining water drips out before the cold sets in.

    Trim It

    During ice storms, branches are pulled down by the weight of the ice. Before the winter arrives check for any dangerously low branches. If it looks like it might fall onto a car or a structure, consider trimming it before the ice brings it down. If you'd rather leave the branches intact, then take note of them and when the ice does arrive make a trip outside to knock some of the weight off the branch.

    Cover It

    Winter weather is hard on almost everything. If it fits in a shed or garage, then keep it there for the winter. If not, cover it with a tarp and tie it securely. Grills, patio chairs, and even garden statues can use protection from the ice and snow.

    Plants are especially susceptible to the cold air that's anticipated. For newly planted shrubs, wrap them in burlap to protect them from the wind. If the wind really whips through a section of your property that has smaller plants, consider making a burlap windbreak by driving tall stakes into the ground and stapling burlap to each to make a "wall" in front of the plants.

    When heavy ice, snow, or fallen branches come down, smaller plants are often crushed. Establish the location of these plants now and protect them from the onslaught. For a quick and efficient element of structural protection, try pushing a few tomato cages over tender plants. The cages will keep fallen branches off the plants, and they'll eliminate ice build-up from pulling stems to dangerous angles. Use the cages that are coming off your tomatoes now and then re-designate them in the spring to their original use.

    Forecasters Hit The Mark on 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season- El Nino among factors that results in fewer hurricanes

    11/3/2014 (Permalink)

    NEW ORLEANS —Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, the hurricane season forecasting team out of Colorado State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration got this hurricane season right.  Both forecast a below-average or near-average hurricane season. That’s what we've had so far;

    Two tropical storms (Dolly and Fay), four hurricanes (Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Fay) and two major hurricanes (Edouard and Gonzaolo.) The average is 12 storms, six hurricanes and three intense.

    • The reason less activity was forecast: El Nino was likely to develop. Remember El Nino is the warm water in the east tropical Pacific Ocean that causes strong upper-level winds that take the tops off of developing systems.

    • El Nino didn't develop. There were some other reasons, too, like cooler Atlantic water temperatures, wind shear and stronger trade winds.

    • The major players this year: dry Saharan dust, wind shear and strong upper-level lows. I can remember looking at the Atlantic Basin this summer and just seeing, dry sinking air. It was amazing!

    • Tropical systems need warm, moist air, warm sea surface temperatures, light winds aloft, converging surface winds and an area of rain and storms. That did not happen much this year.

    • What’s interesting is to see where the storms developed and then moved. From looking at the tracks, we obviously had the Atlantic high in the east Atlantic. We also had all those unusual July and August cold fronts moving off the East Coast of the United States protecting us from storms.

    • Hurricane Arthur is the only tropical system that hit the U.S., causing a wind gust of 101 mph at Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Arthur moved over the outer banks of North Carolina on July 4.

    • Bermuda got a double dose of trouble. First it was Hurricane Faye with winds of 80 mph, then a week later the eye of Gonzalo moved right over the island with winds of 110 mph.

    • It’s like Bermuda was the needle in the haystack. Just over 15 miles long and a mile and a half wide, two hurricanes found Bermuda in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

    • Tropical Storm Dolly moved onshore near Tampico and caused heavy rain. Tropical Storm Hanna hit the Honduras-Nicaragua boarder and caused heavy rain there. The Gulf Coast so far this year has been lucky.

    • Hurricane season ends Nov. 30. It can’t come soon enough!

    Hurricane Sandy: After Two Years, $13.6 billion, FEMA Continues N.Y. Recovery

    10/24/2014 (Permalink)

    Reprinted from FEMA

    NEW YORK—Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, 2012, FEMA, in partnership with the federal family and state and local governments, has been on the scene helping individuals, government entities and eligible non-profits as New York recovers from the storm’s devastation. 

    FEMA has funded more than 3,500 Public Assistance projects including repairing and restoring hospitals, schools, transit venues, waterways, parks, beaches, marinas, water treatment plants and public buildings. A roster of services has been restored, including utilities critical to everyday life. Billions of federal dollars have been expended during the past two years.

    The numbers below tell the story;

    2 - It has been two years since Hurricane Sandy struck New York.

    $13.6 billion - Total FEMA has already provided to New York.

    $1 billion - The dollars given to help survivors get back on their feet with temporary housing assistance, disaster unemployment and other needs assistance.

    $3.9 billion - Amount paid by FEMA to 53,288 policyholders for flood claims through its National Flood Insurance Program.

    $5.5 billion -Total Public Assistance obligated to communities and certain non-profit organizations to help recover from Hurricane Sandy and includes:

    •$620.6 million for debris removal

    •$1.22 billion for emergency work

    •$3.68 billion for permanent work

    $1.7 billion - Added to permanent repair projects to protect against future damage.       

    $84.7 million- Through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to projects throughout the state to protect against future damage.

    $1.5 billion - Small Business Administration loans for homeowners and businesses affected by the storm.

    Prepare For Polar Vortex, Part II?

    10/20/2014 (Permalink)

     The Washington Post

     If you’re wondering what this winter holds for the Mid-Atlantic, you need not look further than last winter, though not as prolonged, says Accuweather in their winter weather outlook.

    “Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February,” they write. “The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.”

    While this forecast may send shivers down your spine, there’s really something for everyone in the outlook.

    Despite the polar plunges, Accuweather forecaster Paul Pastelok says it might not be as bad as the brutal winter of 2013-14, which was as prolonged as it was cold and snowy. The polar vortex may rear its ugly head a few times, but not unseasonably late. “I think, primarily, we’ll see that happening in mid-January into February but again, it’s not going to be the same type of situation as we saw last year, not as persistent,” Pastelok said.

    Digging into the wintry details for the D.C. area, Pastelok thinks this season is not going to push in on the Spring months as much as last year, but will probably be colder. “This winter will be around a degree colder on the three month average December through February,” Pastelok said. “March may turn around as far as temperatures this coming year, but a set back possible in April which can be cooler. January still looks like the top month for storms, coldest period mid January through February.”

    Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is what about the snow?

    “Snowfall was over 30 inches last year,” Pastelok said. “We expect that amount to be nearly cut in half for Washington DC, higher amounts northwest of the District. Probably 15-20 [inches] for the District.” Though to the west of the I-95 corridor, Accuweather forecasts that snowfall amounts could be much higher than normal.

    Elsewhere in the U.S., Accuweather is particularly concerned about the lingering warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which have not been cooled this year by a tropical cyclone. The warm Gulf water could provide extra fuel for winter storms in the south that could ride up the eastern seaboard.

    In the Midwest, Accuweather forecasts winter temperatures to be seven to nine degrees warmer than last year, as well as below-normal snowfall totals. Specifically, they predict that both Chicago and Minneapolis will see below-average snowfall this winter.

    Out West, Accuweather is suggesting that this winter’s snowfall will probably be enough to prevent the California drought from getting worse than it already is, but also says that after some December rain in northern California, the season will end up drier than normal.

    In the Southwest, the potential for a weak El Nino could fuel higher than normal snowfall amounts. “That moisture source is needed to get above-normal snowfall for the region,” Pastelok said. “I do believe there are going to be periods where moisture gets in there.”

    US Winter Forecast: Cold, Snow to Seize Northeast; Wintry Blasts to Slick South

    10/17/2014 (Permalink)

    By Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer

    Though parts of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic had a gradual introduction to fall, winter will arrive without delay. Cold air and high snow amounts will define the season.

    Farther south, ice storms and snow events will threaten the Tennessee Valley and parts of the southern Plains. Much of the South can prepare for a wet winter, with some severe weather encroaching on Florida.

    The northern Plains will be somewhat inconsistent with variable, back-and-forth temperatures and below-normal snowfall. Meanwhile, the drought will persist in the Northwest and northern California and ease slightly farther south.

    A breakdown of the 2014-2015 U.S. Winter Forecast can be found below.

    Cold Northeast, Interior Mid-Atlantic to Yield Snowy Winter Season

    After record-shattering temperatures and high snow totals last winter in the Northeast, a similar theme will continue into the 2014-2015 season.

    Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February. The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.

    "I think, primarily, we'll see that happening in mid-January into February but again, it's not going to be the same type of situation as we saw last year, not as persistent," Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

    "The cold of last season was extreme because it was so persistent. We saw readings that we haven't seen in a long time: 15- to 20-below-zero readings."

    In addition to the cold air, a big snow season could be in the offing. Higher-than-normal snow totals are forecast west of the I-95 corridor.

    "Places like Harrisburg, down to Hagerstown getting into the mountains, the Appalachians, I think that's where you're going to see your bigger, heavier amounts," Pastelok said.

    Philadelphia, which received a whopping 68.9 inches last season, is forecast to close this season with snow totals just above normal. New York City will likely follow suit.

    The I-95 corridor and eastward could fall victim to changeover systems, which will provide a messy wintry mix at times.

    New Weather Model Will Improve Storm Forecasts

    10/15/2014 (Permalink)

    Twelve hours before the Washington, D.C., area experienced severe winds from a derecho, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model correctly predi

    By Doyle Rice, USA Today

    The National Weather Service put a new weather model into operation, a hyper-local program that promises to improve forecasts and warnings for severe weather. Weather models are complex computer programs that help forecasters analyze and predict the weather.

    The weather service says the new one will be able to pinpoint neighborhoods under threat of tornadoes and hail, heavy precipitation that could lead to flash flooding or heavy snowfall -- and warn residents hours before a storm hits.

    The High-Resoluton Rapid Refresh weather model is the first to include hourly updates as well as a visual resolution sharp enough to simulate individual thunderstorms, with grid points about 2 miles apart, the National Center for Atmospheric Research says.

    The closer together the grid points, the better the chance of accurately predicting where it will rain. The HRRR has four times better resolution than previous weather models.

    "HRRR will be updated hourly ... which is what's needed for predicting fast-changing storms and something not done before by the NWS," said Stan Benjamin, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory.

    The model has been used experimentally for four years, including during the 2012 Washington, D.C., derecho -- a severe straight-line windstorm -- which it accurately predicted.

    Is the new model all it's cracked up to be? Two scientists not affiliated with the weather service say yes:

    "HRRR is a major advance for the National Weather Service and an important one," said Cliff Mass, a meteorologist at the University of Washington. "Large improvements are possible in short-term forecasting ... which we call nowcasting ... and HRRR is a substantial technological advance."

    "HRRR is a unique and absolutely great tool for the energy industry, sports venues, transportation companies, etc., with countless applications for people and property affected by weather in the very near term," said meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private forecasting firm WeatherBell.

    A caveat from Maue: "This is only one model representation using one set of physics and assumptions. There are countless configurations of the weather model that could generate drastically different forecasts ... As with any weather model, there will be monumental successes and busts."

    "The human forecast is not going to be replaced, nor can we rely solely on computer generated forecasts for severe weather warnings or automated warnings," he added.

    Atlantic Hurricane Season Weakest So Far Since '83

    10/10/2014 (Permalink)

    Associated Press

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — This year's Atlantic hurricane season is shaping up to be one of the weakest in decades with only five named storms formed in the region so far this year.

    That's the fewest named storms formed during a single full season in the Atlantic since 1983, when there were four.

    Forecasters have projected another two named Atlantic storms for the rest of the season that ends on Nov. 30. But there are no signs of any new ones spinning off Africa's west coast during what is usually the season's peak period — mid-August to late October.

    "We've been very fortunate so far," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

    "It was expected to be a less than average season, and so far, that's panning out," Feltgen said, noting the peak period is about to end. "It takes a big slide in November."

    A typical June-November hurricane season has 12 named storms, nine of them hurricanes and three of those major.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami, in August revised its projection for this year's season, saying it expected only seven to 12 named storms. It originally had projected eight to 13 named storms, including three to six hurricanes.

    Of the five named storms so far this year, four grew into hurricanes, one of them major. That one, Hurricane Edouard, barreled through open waters in mid-September, its 115-mph (185-kph) winds generating only strong waves that delighted surfers in the Caribbean and along the U.S. East Coast.

    A weaker West African monsoon has caused an increase in wind shear and dry, sinking air, which in turn limited storm development this year, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

    "That combination really, really shuts the season down," he said.

    Officials with the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility said no member countries have requested help this year, with no storm or excessive rainfall policies being triggered.

    While the Atlantic hurricane season has remained quiet, the Eastern Pacific season has roared this year with 17 named storms, eight of them major hurricanes.

    Hurricane Edouard Right Environment for Drone Test

    9/26/2014 (Permalink)

    MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Edouard was the perfect environment to test new data-collecting drones because the storm was strong, had a well-defined eye and never threatened land, U.S. government scientists said.

    Four drones called Coyotes — shaped like thin missiles with retractable wings — were launched into the hurricane, even as Edouard had 115 mph winds far out in the Atlantic. The drones collected data from parts of the storm that were too low for a hurricane hunter plane to safely fly in.

    Researchers had been hoping for this type of hurricane to test the drones' durability.

    "The stars lined up," said Joe Cione of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Research Division in Miami. "It was strong, we knew where it was going, we had a deployment point where we could get in and out easily."

    Researchers hope the drones will help them better understand what makes some storms strengthen while others fizzle. Having that information while a storm is still far offshore could help officials better plan for evacuations or storm surge risks.

    It was the first time that the drones have been dropped into a hurricane. The 3-foot-long, 7-pound devices stayed in the hurricane for up to an hour, transmitting temperature, pressure and wind observations before falling to the ocean. The drones are covered with sensors and have a small motor on them. They are maneuvered by computer software. They can be used only once.

    Scientists also drop canisters filled with electronics to transmit data as they fall to the ocean, but they remain airborne for only a few minutes. Cione said those devices deliver snapshots compared to the lengthy transmissions sent back by the drones.

    National Hurricane Center forecasters and other scientists will spend months analyzing the data transmitted by the drones. The preliminary results were potential game changers, Cione said.

    One drone followed air currents through the storm. Another drone launched into Edouard's calm eye was directed into the intense eyewall in a maneuver that Cione likened to merging onto a busy highway.

    "There's no other device that can do that," he said by phone from Bermuda, where the drone-bearing hurricane hunter flights originated. "It orbited the eyewall, and we've never measured anything like that."

    Some technical kinks with the communications systems need to be worked out and funding needs to be secured before the drones can become a regular part of the hurricane hunter operations. Cione hopes to secure funding to test a few more drones next year.

    NOAA got a handful of the drones this year to test during the peak of hurricane season, thanks federal funding after Hurricane Sandy.

    Stay Prepared: Hurricane Season Doesn’t End with Summer

    9/15/2014 (Permalink)

    Eatontown, N.J. --  Hurricane season officially begins each year on June 1, but unlike firemen’s fairs, cookouts and fun at the beach, the season for hurricanes doesn’t end along with the summer.

    As a new school year begins, now may be a good time to check your stock of batteries, bottled water and other emergency supplies that may be needed should New Jersey experience an autumn hurricane.

    While storm frequency tends to peak in August and September, hurricane season in the United States extends to November 30, and while the risk of a Thanksgiving storm may seem remote, it could happen.

    In 2012, Superstorm Sandy only missed it by a few weeks.

    Sandy made landfall in New Jersey as a tropical cyclone on October 29, flooding coastal communities, taking down trees, tearing up infrastructure and demolishing homes and businesses throughout the state. Forty New Jersey residents lost their lives.

    Two years later, the ongoing expenses of repair, rebuilding and recovery from Sandy have made it the second costliest storm in United States history after Katrina, an August 29 storm that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

    Like Sandy, many of the most destructive storms in United States history have occurred after Labor Day, causing massive loss of life and property damage in the billions.

    On September 8, 1900, a category 4 hurricane engulfed Galveston Island, Texas. Storm tides as high as 15 feet swept away homes and businesses, killing an estimated 8,000 people.

    On September 18, 1920, a category 4 hurricane bearing the highest sustained winds ever recorded at that time slammed into Miami Beach and downtown Miami. Believing the storm was over, thousands of people emerged from their homes during a half-hour lull at the eye of the storm and were trapped without shelter as it regained its ferocity. Every building in downtown Miami was either damaged or destroyed and hundreds of people were killed. The storm then crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, where it destroyed virtually every pier, vessel and warehouse on the Pensacola coast.

    In the end, more than 800 people were reported missing after the storm and though records are incomplete, the Red Cross recorded 373 deaths and 6,381 injuries as a result of the hurricane.

    On September 20 and 21, 1938, a fast-moving hurricane struck the Mid-Atlantic and New England with such force that thousands of people were taken by surprise. On Long Island, some 20 people watching an afternoon movie at a local cinema were swept out to sea and drowned. One of the victims was the theater’s projectionist. In downtown Providence, Rhode Island, flood waters rapidly flooded streets, submerging automobiles and street cars as their occupants fled to the high floors of office buildings to escape drowning. The record-breaking storm was responsible for 600 deaths, causing $308 million in damage in the midst of the Great Depression.

    On October 14, 1954, Hurricane Hazel made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Calabash, North Carolina, inundating the coastline with an 18-foot storm surge on a lunar high tide. When the storm passed, only 5 of 357 buildings in Long Beach, North Carolina were still standing. The Raleigh, North Carolina Weather reported that “all traces of civilization on the immediate waterfront between the state line and Cape Fear were practically annihilated." Nineteen people were killed in North Carolina, with several hundred more injured; 15,000 homes were destroyed and another 39,000 were damaged.

    On September 11, 1960, Hurricane Donna barreled across Florida, then traveled east through North Carolina, the Mid-Atlantic states and New England, causing $387 million in damage in the United States and $13 million elsewhere along its path.

    Accounts like the ones above illustrate the importance of making a plan to protect your family and property from the potentially devastating effects of a hurricane or tropical storm.

    With that in mind, why not take a minute to inventory your emergency supplies and schedule a trip to the store to stock up on items that you may need in an emergency.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website,, has as wealth of information on how to plan, prepare and protect your family should another disaster like Sandy occur in the coming months.

    FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

    Study Links Polar Vortex Chills to Melting Sea Ice

    9/4/2014 (Permalink)

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study says that as the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of cold air as the world gets warmer.

    Researchers say that's because of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia. Less ice would let more energy go from the ocean into the air, and that would weaken the atmospheric forces that usually keep cold air trapped in the Arctic.

    But at times it escapes and wanders south, bringing with it a bit of Arctic super chill.

    That can happen for several reasons, and the new study suggests that one of them occurs when ice in northern seas shrinks, leaving more water uncovered.

    Normally, sea ice keeps heat energy from escaping the ocean and entering the atmosphere. When there's less ice, more energy gets into the atmosphere and weakens the jet stream, the high-altitude river of air that usually keeps Arctic air from wandering south, said study co-author Jin-Ho Yoon of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.  So the cold air escapes instead.

    That happened relatively infrequently in the 1990s, but since 2000 it has happened nearly every year, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. A team of scientists from South Korea and United States found that many such cold outbreaks happened a few months after unusually low sea ice levels in the Barents and Kara seas, off Russia.

    The study observed historical data and then conducted computer simulations. Both approaches showed the same strong link between shrinking sea ice and cold outbreaks, according to lead author Baek-Min Kim, a research scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute. A large portion of sea ice melting is driven by man-made climate change from the burning of fossil fuels, Kim wrote in an email.

    Sea ice in the Arctic usually hits its low mark in September and that's the crucial time point in terms of this study, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. Levels reached a record low in 2012 and are slightly up this year, but only temporarily, with minimum iceextent still about 40 percent below 1970s levels, he said.

    Yoon said that although his study focused on shrinking sea ice, something else was evidently responsible for last year's chilly visit from the polar vortex.

    In the past several years, many studies have looked at the accelerated warming in the Arctic and whether it is connected to extreme weather farther south, from heatwaves to Superstorm Sandy. This Arctic-extremes connection is "cutting edge" science that is hotly debated by mainstream climate scientists, Serreze said. Scientists are meeting this week in Seattle to look at the issue even more closely.

    Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, is skeptical about such connections and said he doesn't agree with Yoon's study. His research points more to the Pacific than the Arctic for changes in the jet stream and polar vortex behavior, and he said Yoon'sstudy puts too much stock in an unusual 2012.

    But the study was praised by several other scientists who said it does more than show that sea ice melt affects worldwide weather, but demonstrates how it happens, with a specific mechanism.

    Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech climate scientist in Lubbock, said the study "provides important insight into the cascading nature of the effects human activities are having on the planet."

    10 States Most at Risk of Disaster

    8/19/2014 (Permalink)

    #1 - Iconic Casino Pier Amusement Park, Seaside Park, NJ after Hurricane Sandy.

    States of danger

    Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. But some places experience more than their fair share of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and severe weather -- so much so that certain locales earn frightening nicknames, such as Tornado Alley. No matter where you live, make sure you have the right kinds and necessary amounts of insurance coverage to protect your finances.

    So where do these damaging events occur most frequently and severely? worked with the National Weather Service to identify the 10 states that have suffered the biggest estimated property losses from disasters over the past eight years

    No. 10: Arizona

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $3.5 billion

    Most frequent disasters: thunderstorms, flash floods, drought,dust storms

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 93

    Drought conditions have plagued Arizona for the past several years. As a result, the state has seen outbreaks of wildfires, including its largest on record in 2011. The Wallow Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in eastern Arizona. And in 2010 a series of severe thunderstorms produced numerous tornadoes and hail around Phoenix, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage.

    Keep in mind that if your home is damaged, you should file a claim only if it’s several hundred dollars more than your insurance deductible. Frequent small claims can lead to a rate hike.

    No. 9: Colorado

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $3.7 billion

    Most frequent disasters: winter storms, hail, drought, floods and flash floods

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 70

    Record rainfall during September 2013 led to floods that killed nine people and caused widespread destruction in several Colorado cities, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The Centennial State also suffered the most damages among western states where wildfires broke out in the summer of 2012. If you live in a state where wildfires are common, it’s important to know what your homeowners policy covers and the difference between assessed value and actual replacement value. Too many people learn only after a fire that they were underinsured.

    No. 8: Louisiana

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $3.9 billion

    Most frequent disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, tropical storms, floods and flash floods

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 66

    Last year, the Pelican State was at the top of our list, largely because of Hurricane Katrina, which was the costliest disaster in U.S. history. But it drops in the rankings because the 2005 hurricane was not part of our data set this year, which includes events from 2006 to early 2014. However, Louisiana suffered from flooding when Hurricane Isaac hit in 2012. If you live in a flood-prone area, don’t wait until storm clouds gather to buy a flood policy; typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before premiums take effect.

    No. 7: Mississippi

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $4.3 billion

    Most frequent disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, floods and flash floods

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 88

    Mississippi frequently is hit by tornadoes and severe storms. It also has been in the path of several hurricanes -- most recently Hurricane Isaac in 2012 -- that have caused extensive flooding. Although homeowners insurance covers damage due to wind, it doesn’t cover flood damage. You have to purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

    No. 6: Oklahoma

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013) : $4.5 billion

    Most frequent disasters: hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes, drought

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 162

    The Sooner State has another moniker: Tornado Alley. A massive EF5 tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013, and the widest tornado on record hit El Reno, Okla., just 11 days later. Severe storms and twisters are so much a part of the state's weather that the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center are located here.

    Homeowners in tornado-prone states should set aside an emergency fund and take photos of all valuables in preparation for an insurance claim.

    No. 5: Alabama

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $4.9 billion

    Most frequent disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 333

    Alabama was hit hard by tornadoes in April 2011, especially in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, where more than 120 people were killed. In fact, the Yellowhammer State is second only to Oklahoma for the number of EF5 tornadoes (the largest in intensity and area) that have struck there.

    No. 4: Missouri

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $5.0 billion

    Most frequent disasters: hail, thunderstorms, winter storms, floods, tornadoes

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 346

    Missouri has suffered the most weather-related deaths in the last eight years. The tornado that swept through Joplin on May 22, 2011, was one of the deadliest in U.S. history (158 deaths) and generated $2.2 billion in insurance claims, according to an Insurance Information Institute analysis of data from ISO’s Property Claims Service.

    No. 3: Tennessee

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $5.1 billion

    Most frequent disasters: thunderstorms, hail, winter storms, tornadoes

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 224

    Severe storms and tornadoes are common in Tennessee, which was among several southern states hit by the historic “super outbreak” of tornadoes in April 2011. The state’s capital, Nashville, suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage due to flooding in May 2010, and Memphis had millions of dollars’ worth of damage when the Mississippi River flooded in the spring of 2011.

    No. 2: Texas

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $23.7 billion

    Most frequent disasters: hail, thunderstorms, drought, tornadoes and flash floods

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 313

    Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are nearly as common as tumbleweed in the Lone Star State. Also, cities close to the southern coast, such as Galveston and Houston, are often in the bulls-eye of destructive hurricanes, such as Hurricane Ike in 2008, that gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico. And wildfires -- such as the 2011 Bastrop fire that destroyed more than 1,500 homes -- are common due to extreme heat and drought conditions in the state.

    No. 1: New Jersey

    Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $26.4 billion

    Most frequent disasters: damaging wind, winter storms, floods and flash floods

    Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 87

    New Jersey earns the top spot on this list, in large part due to damage wrought by Sandy -- which had weakened from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it the Jersey Shore -- in October 2012. The state was among the hardest hit by Sandy, which was the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina. Many homes and businesses were destroyed along the Jersey Shore, and a portion of the Atlantic City Boardwalk washed away. Shortly after Sandy hit, another storm brought wet snow that caused more power outages and damage.

    Storm Forecasters Adding Extra Layers to Warnings

    8/15/2014 (Permalink)

    By KELLY P. KISSEL of Associated Press The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said Monday it will add two threat levels to its weather outlooks so people aren't surprised by really bad storms on days with just a "slight risk" of tornadoes, hail or high winds. Beginning Oct. 22, forecasters can say whether slight risk days are "enhanced" or "marginal" or just plain "slight." Other categories remain, including "high" and "moderate. The Norman, Oklahoma-based center traditionally targeted local forecasters and broadcasters across the U.S. with their advisories, known as "convective outlooks," but the Internet makes that data available to anyone with a computer and basic scientific knowledge. "We serve a very diverse group," said Greg Carbin, the center's warning coordination meteorologist. "We have a hybrid audience of highly sophisticated decision-makers," ranging from "expert users of weather information" to "the head of the household in those parts of the country that are often targeted by severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center for years classified the risk as high, moderate or slight, "and you can have killer storms in a slight risk," Carbin said. The system now mimics scales for tornado damage, hurricane strength and the former Homeland Security terrorist threat sale It gets us to five categories. Now we have a scheme where we can rank something 1-5," Carbin said. A public comment period drew 700 responses, mostly from individuals, government officials and the media. Around two-thirds said they used the outlooks at least once daily, and 87 percent of them said they liked the idea. Some, however, said extra colors made the map confusing. Carbin said television broadcasters didn't like the term "slight risk," fearing viewers often interpret that as "no risk." He said they were free to develop their own terms. "I don't care if you use 'slight' or 'a 2-out-of-5 chance,' as long as the general understanding of risk is conveyed," he said.

    Hurricane? Cyclone? Typhoon? Here's the difference

    8/13/2014 (Permalink)

    By Seth Borenstein, Associated Press

    HURRICANE? CYCLONE? TYPHOON? They're all the same, officially tropical cyclones. But they just use distinctive terms for a storm in different parts of the world. Hurricane is used in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, central and northeast Pacific. They are typhoons in the northwest Pacific. In the Bay of Bengal and the Arabia Sea, they are called cyclones. Tropical cyclone is used in the southwest India Ocean; in the southwestern Pacific and southeastern India Ocean they are severe tropical cyclones.

    STRENGTH: A storm gets a name and is considered a tropical storm at 39 mph (63 kph). It becomes a hurricane, typhoon, tropical cyclone, or cyclone at 74 mph (119 kph). There are five strength categories, depending on wind speed. The highest category is 5 and that's above 155 mph (249 kph). Australia has a different system for categorizing storm strength.

    ROTATION: If they are north of the equator they rotate counterclockwise. If they are south, they rotate clockwise.

    SEASON: The Atlantic and central Pacific hurricane seasons are June 1 through Nov. 30. Eastern Pacific: May 15 to Nov. 30; northwestern Pacific season is close to all year, with the most from May to November. The cyclone season in the south Pacific and Australia runs from November to April. The Bay of Bengal has two seasons April to June and September to November.

    WHERE IS THE BUSIEST PLACE? The northwestern Pacific where Typhoon Haiyan has just hit. A normal year there involves 27 named storms. Haiyan is the 28th named storm and there has already been a 29th. By comparison the Atlantic averages 11 named storms a year and this year there have been 12, none of them causing major problems.

    WHO DECIDES THE NAMES? The lists are maintained by the World Meteorological Organization; the names are ones that are familiar in each region. Names are taken off the list and replaced to avoid confusion if a hurricane causes a lot of damage or deaths. For example, Katrina was retired after it devastated New Orleans in 2005. The Philippines has its own naming system, so Typhoon Haiyan is also being called Yolanda.

    HOW DOES EL NINO AFFECT STORMS? During an El Nino — when the central Pacific is warming — there are fewer Atlantic storms. El Ninos shift where storms form, but not the number, for the northwest Pacific and the southwest Pacific. The central Pacific gets more storms during El Nino and the year after. This year has neither an El Nino nor its opposite, a La Nina. It is a neutral year.

    What To Do When A Thunderstorm Hits

    7/29/2014 (Permalink)

    The most common danger associated with thunderstorms is lightning, and with good reason: Lightning is one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. But thunderstorms create other catastrophic weather events such as tornadoes and flash flooding. Each year, flash flooding is responsible for more deaths than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. Here's what to do before, during and after a thunderstorm.

    An emergency kit is something everyone should have on hand, no matter your locale or the natural disasters that are possible in your area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's can help you build a kit — with food, water, and essential supplies for 72 hours — as well as teach you where to store it and how to update it. If the idea of making your own kit is too daunting, you can buy an emergency preparedness kit put together by the American Red Cross. Get rid of rotting trees and branches; secure anything outdoors that could blow into your house and cause damage. 

    • Unplug electronic equipment well before a storm arrives.

    • Get inside — preferably inside your home, a building or a hard-top automobile.

    • Shutter windows and secure doors; if shutters are not available, close the blinds or curtains.

      Special considerations for lightning 

    • Follow the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: If you can't count to 30 before hearing thunder after seeing lightning, go indoors. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder.

    • If you are in a forest, find shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

    • If you're on open water, get to land and indoors immediately.

    • In an open area, find a low place such as a valley or ravine, but watch for flash floods from the storm.

    • If you feel your hair stand on end, lightning is about to strike. Get low to the ground, cover your ears and put your head between your knees. 

      Weathering the storm 

    • Don't use a corded phone or anything plugged into an outlet. Avoid all contact with electrical equipment.

    • Stay away from windows and doors. Stay inside.

    • Don't lean against concrete walls or lie on concrete floors.

    • Avoid washing your hands, showering or using plumbing for any reason.

    • If you're on the road, pull over and park. Turn on your emergency blinkers.

      After the storm 

    • Don't attempt to drive through a flooded roadway.

    • If your power has gone out, never use a generator indoors. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly in small spaces and remain dangerous for hours.

    • Avoid downed power lines and report them to the power company.

    Farmers and Gardeners: Prepare Now to Weather the Whims of Mother Nature

    7/23/2014 (Permalink)

    Commercial farms and home gardens alike present similar challenges when natural disasters are a threat. The flat, open land that crops grow in and animals graze on has few natural defenses against flooding, and any tall buildings on farmland, such as barns and silos, can be vulnerable to lightning strikes.  While the average home garden doesn’t have the same scope of a large farm, owners of both can use similar methods to protect their crops, livestock and property from the impact of a natural disaster.

    Take a full inventory of everything: livestock, equipment, pesticides, fertilizers, other chemicals and fuel. Animals should be tagged so they can be returned if they get lost or hurt during an incident. Have sandbags and plastic sheeting on hand to cover and protect crops and garden plots in case of flooding. Use wire and rope to secure objects, and lumber and plywood to protect windows. Put a fire extinguisher in every building and vehicle on your property.

    Choose a safe, flood-proof location to store extra fuel for tractors and vehicles, food and water for livestock, and a gas-powered generator in case of power failure. Make sure that electrical power to flood-prone machines and structures can be easily turned off. Have hand tools accessible to assist in preparation and recovery.

    If you are in a particularly flood-prone area, figure out escape routes for livestock to get to higher ground. Also, keep them out of barns that may flood, as their natural instinct is to seek shelter in a barn during an emergency.

    In the aftermath of a disaster, report leaks of any hazardous materials (pesticides, fuel, fertilizer and other chemicals) to authorities. 

    Check your utilities for signs of damage, and contact your utility company before turning anything back on. Spray surviving livestock with insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes, and have all animals checked for infectious diseases such as pneumonia or foot rot.

    Test the soil, especially in smaller gardens and flower beds. It is recommended that flooded areas not be planted again for at least 30 to 60 days. Before replanting, make sure the soil is dry and has been reworked. Salt water can get washed up by waves and storm surge and get into the soil and on plants and trees, causing leaves to brown and damaging roots and buds. The damage salt spray can do to plants can last for several years.

    Dispose of any leafy green vegetables and any other crops with edible parts that were touched by flood water. Affected root vegetables can be sanitized for consumption by rinsing them and soaking them in a bleach/water solution. 

    Super Typhoon Neoguri Aims at Japan; U.S. Air Base Wary of Winds

    7/7/2014 (Permalink)

    NBC News

    Japan was bracing for destructive winds and huge waves as a powerful super typhoon described as a "once in decades storm" churned Monday toward the southern islands of Okinawa after sparing the Philippines. Typhoon Neoguri was already gusting at more than 150 mph and may pick up still more power as it moves north, growing into an "extremely intense" storm by Tuesday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. It was expected to rake the southern Okinawa island chain with heavy rain and powerful winds before making landfall on Kyushu, Japan's westernmost main island.

    The storm was not expected to be as strong as Typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands in the Philippines last year. The JMA said Monday night that it planned to issue an emergency high sea warning for Okinawa Island, host to three-quarters of U.S. military facilities in Japan. The commander at Kadena Air Base, one of the largest U.S. military establishments on Okinawa, earlier warned that damaging winds were expected by early Tuesday. "I can't stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa," Brigadier General James Hecker wrote on the base's Facebook page on Sunday. "This is not just another typhoon."

    Prepare for major 2014 hurricane despite predicted lull: Report

    6/27/2014 (Permalink)

    Bill Kenealy - Business Insurance

    Businesses and insurers need to ready themselves for the possibility of a major hurricane making landfall in 2014 irrespective of projections for an average or below-average hurricane season, reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter & Co. L.L.C said in a report released Wednesday.

    The report, “2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season: One Never Truly Knows,” say that while predictive and historical models can provide guidance, landfalls remain a real possibility.

    While forecasters predict fewer hurricanes than average in the Atlantic basin for 2014, the correlation between hurricane counts and the number of U.S. landfalls is weak, said James Waller, research meteorologist for Guy Carpenter's GC Analytics division.

    “The risk of a landfalling hurricane is a serious threat for any tropical season, regardless of seasonal outlooks for the Atlantic basin at large,” Mr. Waller said in a statement. “Warmer waters in the West Atlantic and Caribbean coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the strength and placement of the impending El Niño, warrant a moment of pause for the 2014 season.”

    El Niño fuels uncertainty

    Indeed, the report notes that many of the uncertainties in the outlook for 2014 center on the El Niño phenomenon, which is signaled by warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the tropical East Pacific as well as the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Main Development Region, which is bounded by a box from 10-20 degrees north latitude and 20-85 degrees west longitude. A strong El Niño causes large-scale air circulations that enhance wind shear in the Atlantic, the report said, adding that enhanced wind shear is thought to disrupt tropical cyclone formation.

    The unresolved questions regarding the strength and placement of this year's El Niño will be telling, the report concludes, noting that some of the most destructive U.S. hurricane landfalls came during weak El Niño years.

    “The 2004 season was a weak El Niño year with the warm waters located closer to the Central Pacific,” the report said. “The season produced nine hurricanes and five U.S. landfalls, four of which severely affected Florida in a very impactful season.”

    Which natural disaster will likely destroy your home?

    6/25/2014 (Permalink)

    By Les Christie @CNNMoney

    Move to the Deep South and chances are high that disaster will strike your home sooner or later.

    Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi boast the dubious distinction of having the highest risk of getting hit by a natural disaster -- whether it be a tornado, earthquake or hurricane, according to RealtyTrac, which analyzed data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess natural disaster risk for more than 3,000 U.S. counties.

    In Alabama's Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties, for example, tornadoes are seven times more likely to occur than the average U.S. county. The last huge tornado, a multi-vortex, hit three years ago causing 64 fatalities and $2.4 billion in damage.

    Not only that, but hurricanes are another threat to the region. And that double whammy means premiums for property insurance can be much more expensive. Alabama's average homeowner's policy cost more than $1,100 a year versus a little more than $500 a year for Idaho, where insurance is the cheapest, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

    RealtyTrac reported that 55% of homes in the U.S. are either in "very high" or "high" risk zones.

    "The potential risk of a natural disaster may not be the first item on most homebuyer checklists for a dream home, but prudent buyers will certainly take this into consideration," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

    As those who lost homes in Superstorm Sandy discovered, one majoSandy hit in 2012, killing 48 people and causing $32 billion in damage in New York State, most of it in New York City's five counties.

    People who have rebuilt or bought homes in the hardest hit areas are facing sky-high flood insurance premiums of as much as $10,000 or more.

    When buying a home in a hurricane-prone area check out the home's quality of construction and its ability to withstand a storm, said Blomquist.

    Houses built in flood zones should bebuilt on pilings high off the ground so storm surge waters can flow beneath without damaging the upper parts of the home.

    With homes built in areas with high earthquake activity, like California, pay attention to how the home is framed and what can happen to some architectural details during an earthquake.

    There's not too much one can do to withstand a fierce tornado but storm shelters can at least increase the odds of surviving a storm, even if your house does not.

    Want to avoid all of these natural disasters altogether? Try moving to Minnesota or Montana. RealtyTrac reported that 23% of homes were located in medium risk counties while 22% were in low or very low risk counties.

    Three of the four lowest risk counties are in Minnesota, outside Minneapolis, and on the prairie lands of Montana, around Billings.In these places, the biggest risk may be frost bite or bursting a water pipe. 

    Bank President Shelters Staff In Vault During Tornado

    6/23/2014 (Permalink)

    Posted on

    PILGER, NE- A bank vault serves as shelter during Nebraska's deadly tornadoes.

    Before the tornado hit, there were still people working at the Midwest Bank in Pilger.

    President Gene Willer put the eight employees in a bank safe for protection.

    Unfortunately, Willer was unable to join them, as he would have to be the one to let them out.

    "It locks from the outside and you can't lock it from the inside. And it had to be locked otherwise the tornado would suck the door open. I locked them in the vault and then I went down into the cellar," recalled Willer.

    "I get a little emotional about this. I was prepared to die, I thought I was going to die," he began, "we're like a family and I'm the President and I take care of my family. That's all there is to it."

    The National Weather Service says an EF4 tornado touched down in Pilger Monday

    Damaging more than half of the town.

    Debunked: 5 Lightning Myths That Could Kill You

    6/20/2014 (Permalink)

    By  JoNel Aleccia , Senior Health Editor, NBC News

    When it comes to staying safe from lightning strikes, everything you think you know is probably wrong.

    That’s the word from weather experts, who worry that outdated advice and persistent myths about thunder and lightning storms may be backfiring, putting people in danger instead of protecting them from harm.

    Debunking inaccurate beliefs is vital as we head into summer in North America, the peak season for lightning strikes, said John Jensenius, the lightning specialist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.        

    “There are things we just simply don’t recommend anymore,” Jensenius said. “People misunderstand them and it puts them in danger."

    So far this year, there have been seven lightning deaths in the U.S., including a 32-year-old man found lifeless under a tree Wednesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Last year, there were 23 lightning deaths in the U.S., a record low in a nation where the 30-year average is 51 deaths a year.

    Here are the most common myths about lightning strikes and safety:

    1. Golfers are most at risk of getting hit.

    Not true. Among the 261 people killed by lightning between 2006 and 2013, fishermen accounted for more than three times as many fatalities as golfers — and camping and boating each chalked up almost twice as many deaths as golf.

    2. The "30/30 rule" can keep you safe.

    It’s been years since experts relied on the 30/30 rule, which went like this: If it takes less than 30 seconds to hear thunder after seeing a lightning flash, lightning is close enough to pose a threat, go indoors. And, after the storm ends, wait 30 minutes before resuming outdoor activities. Instead, the new advice is just to go inside either a substantial shelter or a hard-topped metal vehicle at the first sound of thunder, Jensenius said. Once there, experts still recommend waiting a half-hour before going back outside. “The general rule that we use is that if you can hear thunder, you’re within striking distance of the storm and you need to go inside right away,” he said.

    3. If you’re caught outside, assume the "lightning squat."

    “The idea was to squat down low with your two feet together,” Jensenius said. “Some had you putting your hands over your head or your ears, basically to get yourself into a ball.” But that’s also wrong. People are endangered as much by ground lighting as they are by a direct strike. For instance, lightning can hit a tree and then spread along the surface of the earth, Jensenius said. If you’re crouching on the ground, you’re likely to get hit. Again, the best advice is to head to shelter at the first sign of a storm.

    4. Just go ahead with your plans during a lightning storm.

    The biggest mistake most people make is not being willing to cancel or postpone activities when dangerous weather crops up, Jensenius said. Men, who make up more than 80 percent of lightning fatalities, are notoriously unwilling to postpone a hike or head back to shore on a fishing trip, he noted. But that stubbornness may be a deadly decision. 5. You’ll hear a storm in time to get to safety.

    People are able to hear thunder from about 10 miles away, Jensenius said. But any number of factors can interfere with the warning. “In many cases you can’t hear it that far because of background noise,” he said. “You won’t hear it if you’re near a highway or in a crowd at a fair or a ball game. And if the wind is blowing, it would muffle the sound.”

    Bottom line: Don’t take chances with lightning. The odds of being struck may be one in a million in a given year and one in 10,000 over a lifetime, but it’s better not to be that one.

    What’s In A Hurricane’s Name?

    6/9/2014 (Permalink)

    Would more residents of New Orleans have evacuated ahead of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 if it had been named Kurt?  A published study suggests they would have, perhaps reducing Katrina's death toll of more than 1,800.

    Because people unconsciously think a storm with a female name is less dangerous than one with a masculine name, those in its path are less likely to flee, and are therefore more vulnerable to harm.  As a result, strong Atlantic hurricanes with the most feminine names caused an estimated five times more deaths than those with the most masculine names, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

     When the National Hurricane Center began giving storms human names in 1953 with Alice, it used only women's. The first "male" Atlantic hurricane was Bob, in 1979.  Hurricane names currently alternate between male and female. Among those the World Meteorological Organization has chosen for 2014: Dolly, Josephine, and Vicky.

    Based on the analysis of Atlantic hurricanes from 1950 to 2012, when 94 made landfall, the researchers found that names of less severe storms didn't matter. Whether people took precautions or not, the death toll was minimal and no different for male and female names.  But for strong hurricanes, the more feminine the name - as ranked by volunteers on an 11-point scale - the more people it killed. 

     When judging a storm's threat, people "appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave," said co-author Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing at Illinois. "This makes a female-named hurricane, especially one with a very feminine name such as Belle or Cindy, seem gentler and less violent."

      A spokesman for the National Hurricane Center declined to say whether scientists there find this analysis credible. But "whether the name is Sam or Samantha," Dennis Feltgen said, people must heed evacuation orders.

    A Hurricane Season Checklist

    6/2/2014 (Permalink)

    Reprinted from Property Casualty 360

    Hurricane season officially started June 1, but National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 25-31) provided time for home and business owners to take steps to protect their property. While forecasters are predicting a slightly quieter than normal season, one strong storm can disrupt businesses, impact the infrastructure and displace hundreds of residents. The checklists below provide practical steps to take before the summer storm season begins.

     Start with an inspection of outside spaces:

    • Make sure that gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and drain away from the structure.

    • Landscaping should not allow water to collect next to the foundation of the building. Remove any damaged or low-hanging branches.

    • Check low-lying areas that are vulnerable to water and ensure that they drain away from any basements or foundations.

    • Inspect the seals of windows and doors along the frames to check for cracks and ensure they are not compromised in any way.  “Windows are one of the four most vulnerable areas in the home,” says Matthew Minerd of Simonton Windows.

    • Look for items that can become projectiles during heavy winds and move them to a protected area or secure them in some manner.

      Companies can take a number of steps to minimize business interruption and protect important records.

     Back-up all records and store the back-ups off site.

    • Have mops, buckets, tarps and a wet/dry vacuum on hand in case of leaks or flooding. Placing tarps over computers and other electronics can minimize damage later.

    • Store all paper records off of the floor. In the case of a flood or water leak, they can become instant casualties.

    • Walk through the basement or any offices on a lower level to see what furniture, records or electronics could be compromised or damaged during any flooding, and move them to a higher location or place them in protective containers.

    • Take a video inventory of each office and its contents for insurance purposes.

      It’s easy to become complacent when storms haven’t been a recent threat. In addition to the recommendations above, homeowners should also prepare for hurricanes and summer storms by:

     Doing a full inventory of their home(s) and contents – Going room by room with a video camera and taking photos with a digital camera provides a quick inventory of collectibles, works of art, antiques and other irreplaceable items. The inventory should be stored somewhere other than the home.

    • Collecting insurance policies pertaining to the home and being familiar with what they do and do not cover. Insurance agents can do a review of policy limits and exclusions.

    • Preparing supplies in case of a power outage or evacuation – stock up on essentials like batteries, bottled water, canned goods, flashlights, etc.

    • Identifying areas vulnerable to water in and around the house, and clearing all drains.

    • Planning ahead to move boats, water craft, motorcycles, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles and other modes of transportation in the event of a flood.

      Forecasters anticipate a quieter than normal hurricane season for the Atlantic with 11 named storms, five hurricanes and only two that will reach Category 3 or higher. WSI meteorologist Ray Hawthorne says it doesn’t matter how many storms are forecast, only which ones make landfall. “In 1992, Hurricane Andrew was the only storm to make landfall in a year where fewer than average storms were forecast.” Andrew did $26 billion in damage then, which would cost close to $44 billion today or almost equal the damage created by Hurricane Sandy two years ago.

    Here We Go - Hurricane Season is Upon Us!

    5/28/2014 (Permalink)

    Hurricane Amanda in the eastern Pacific on May 25. Credit: NOAA

    Hurricane Amanda Just Set an Ominous New Record

    The first eastern Pacific hurricane of 2014 set a new intensity record. Here's why we could see even stronger storms before the year is over.

    Usually, people living in the United States don't pay much attention to hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, the other basin where megastorms that can affect North America are formed. Mostly, these storms wallop Mexico, or travel harmlessly out to sea. So, given the standard myopia of the media, we rarely hear much about them.

    But this year, perhaps, we ought to be paying more attention. The eastern Pacific hurricane season started on May 15, and already, with its first storm, it has set an ominous record. The hurricane in question, named Amanda, spun up south of the Baja California peninsula Thursday, and on Sunday it attained maximum sustained wind speeds of 155 miles per hour—just below Category 5 status. Or as National Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart put it when the storm reached its peak strength: "Amanda is now the strongest May hurricane on record in the eastern Pacific basin during the satellite era."

    This record is notable for two reasons. First of all, even though there remains a great deal of uncertainty and debate about the relationship between hurricanes and global warming, the fact is that in many hurricane basins across the world, new storm intensity records have been set just since the year 2000. Amanda therefore fits into this broader pattern.

    Second, there is growing evidence that El Niño conditions—characterized by an eastward shift of warm water across the great Pacific Ocean, with global weather ramifications—are developing in the Pacific right now. The latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now gives us a greater than 65 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop by this summer.

    Insured Loss Estimate for April U.S. Storms in Hundreds of Millions

    5/13/2014 (Permalink)


    Now it’s official. April’s thunderstorms were big.

    The series of storms that wreaked havoc across much of the United States in April rank as the first billion-dollar economic loss event of 2014 that can be attributed to convective thunderstorms, according to Aon Benfield’s monthly Global Catastrophe Recap report, released Wednesday. At least 39 people were killed by flash flooding and severe weather during the storms, which included nearly 70 confirmed tornadoes across more than 20 states in the Plains, Mississippi Valley, Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.

    Insured losses due to the multi-day outbreak will likely end up in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Aon Benfield said.

    “The recent outbreaks of tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds in the United States have emphasized the importance of historical data analysis for insurers and reinsurers when trying to forecast future losses,” said Adam Podlaha, head of Impact Forecasting with Aon Benfield, in the report.

    Widespread damage

    And the “big” April storm was just one example.

    Aon Benfield also attributed economic losses of $950 million to a large hailstorm that hit the Denton, Texas metro area in April, an event that generated insured losses of about $650 million. That storm also caused widespread damage in parts of the Plains, Midwest and Mississippi Valley.

    Will this Hurricane Season be a Bad One? -Colorado State University Predicts Below-Average Activity in 2014

    4/11/2014 (Permalink)

    2014 hurricane season forecasts from The Weather Channel (TWC) and Colorado State University (CSU) compared to average (AVG).

    The 2014 hurricane season is expected to have a below average number of named storms and hurricanes, according to Dr. Phillip J. Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University (CSU).

    In its annual preseason forecast released Thursday, the team expects a total of nine named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) in the Atlantic Ocean basin. This forecast is below the long-term average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes each season.

    The forecast from CSU calls for fewer named storms and hurricanes than the forecast released by The Weather Channel about two weeks ago. That forecast called for 11 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes, which is slightly below the long-term averages.

    These forecasts cannot predict the details of any potential landfalls. Therefore, residents of the coastal United States should prepare each year no matter the forecast.

    Tips to Help Remove an Ice Dam from your Roof (provided by Travelers Insurance)

    3/3/2014 (Permalink)

    An ice dam has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. It is important to take steps to help protect your home from the risks associated with ice dams.

    What is an ice dam?

    An ice dam can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.

    Immediate steps you can take:

    Remove snow from your roof after every storm. Use a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm to prevent ice dams from forming. While the amount of snow and ice that your roof can handle may vary depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure, a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed.

    Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.

    Longer-term prevention:

    Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.

    Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.

    Install a water-repellant membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

    Removing ice dams

    Just because an ice dam is present does not necessarily mean water has penetrated the roof membrane. However, it is always best to remove ice dams before they have the opportunity to cause damage. To determine if you have damage, look for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor.

    If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake, or cut a channel through the ice to allow standing water to drain.

    If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.

    Another method is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also be aware that shrubbery and plantings near the gutter or downspout may be damaged.

    Look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.

    Generally speaking, property owners are responsible for the cost of preventive maintenance. However, each claim is unique, and coverage and claim decisions always require an expert analysis by a licensed Claim professional. Keep in mind that the cost of snow removal is likely to be considerably less than the cost of roof damage or interior property damage caused by water leaks.

    The Big Freeze: Polar Vortex 2014 takes hold on Long Island

    2/25/2014 (Permalink)

    The Polar Vortex 2014 is making this winter one of the costliest in years.

    By Deborah Rashti

    SERVPRO of Great Neck Port Washington

    The Farmer’s Almanac was right on when it predicted that the winter of 2013-2014 would result in “below-normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall.”   January has had its share of snow and the bone chilling temperatures that the Polar Vortex brought to our area seem to be staying with us straight into February.  The surge in pipe breaks from this deep freeze is making January one of the costliest in years. While taking preventative measures to keep your pipes safe from breaking before winter arrives is always a better idea; there are steps you can still take now that could minimize your exposure to this very real risk.

    To start, there are products on the market that could greatly decrease your chances of suffering a pipe break. A water monitor is an excellent investment that shuts down your water main and alerts you to a pipe break on your smart phone. You can be away from home and get the help you need to get this situation under control.  This is a must have for snowbirds! 

    Heat tape insulation is a great way to get supplemental heat to pipes located in unheated areas such as detached garages.  There is thermostatically controlled heat tape and heater tape that is plugged into an outlet.  The heater tapes work by a built in thermostat.  In order to work, the tape must be wrapped between the pipe and the insulation.

    Inexpensive foam insulation gives an extra layer of protection to pipes that receive moderate heat such as pipes in crawl spaces with minimal heating.  When putting on these insulation sleeves, it is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air.  These sleeves are available in foam rubber or fiberglass, and plumbing supply stores carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation.  The added protection is worth the added cost.

    Simple things like raising the thermostat during exceptionally cold spells can be a big help when the temperatures plunge.  No matter what, never let your thermostat go below 55 degrees.  By keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night, you may incur a higher heating cost, but it will pale in comparison to the repair from a costly pipe burst. 

    Another simple preventative tip is to keep your cabinets open underneath sinks.  This increase in heat flow to plumbing can make all the difference in preventing pipes from freezing.  This is a trick that our neighbors well to the North of us have been doing for years. In the event that this plumbing is located on an outer wall, it would also behoove you to have the water running continuously in a trickle to prevent freezing.    Again, the cost incurred in this extra water is inconsequential compared to the clean up from a pipe break.

    If you are leaving your home for the winter months, consider closing the main water to your home and emptying the water from your pipes by releasing the water from faucets and toilets.  This does not take much work to do and it will afford you peace of mind in your absence.  Always make sure that a neighbor, family member or friend look in on your property. Owning a home is a big responsibility and it is important to make sure that all is well within your home.

    In closing, extreme weather is the pattern that we are in right now.  Whether it is from global warming or not, is secondary to taking precautions to protect our pipes from this extreme cold that they are being subjected to.  Predictions hold that February will have worse weather than January. If you have not taken preventative measures to protect your pipes from freezing, you still have time. Cleaning up from a pipe break can be extensive and your insurance company will want to know that you did everything you could to minimize your exposure to loss. When it comes right down to it:  Your insurance coverage could depend on it.