GeekMom’s Tips for Crazy Weather Outbreaks: Be Prepared For Nature’s Curveballs

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the costliest U.S. weather disaster to date. Keeping weather aware might help you keep safe during future events such as this. Image: NOAA.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the costliest U.S. weather disaster to date. Keeping weather aware will keep you safe from future events such as this. Image: NOAA.

After the tragic tornadoes that struck Oklahoma over the past couple weeks, I’m hopeful that many of you have taken steps to be more prepared, especially if you live in areas prone to such weather. Many survivors in Moore and El Reno certainly can attest to being well prepared, but the biggest storms and tornadoes can demolish even the safest “safe” rooms. Here at GeekMom, our hearts go out to all those communities impacted.

That being said, we just want to remind our readers that the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season continues through November 30th, and severe weather is possible during the entire year. Another derecho event is predicted this evening, so we thought we’d provide some references for you to help keep aware and prepared.

You might remember my similar request to remain prepared with the Center for Disease Control’s Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse guide in Fall 2011.  Or one of my multiple pleas to invest in a NOAA Weather Radio or a smartphone app to keep weather-aware.

This year’s seasonal hurricane forecast is predicting a more-active than usual season due to anomalous warming of the Atlantic Ocean in early 2013.

Don’t Waste Time! First of all, prepare yourselves and your families NOW. Not when a tropical system is forecast to make landfall near your community, now. Grab the resources while you can. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an up-to-date hurricane preparedness website. It has tips on how to prepare an emergency kit and a family communication plan. FEMA has an outstanding PDF file that you can print and fill out for an easy-to-use communication plan. The National Weather Service has launched their Force of Nature program, inspiring Americans to become weather-aware and take the initiative in preparation. For the past month the weather service has featured numerous public service announcements as part of the Force of Nature campaign.

Need some help quickly acquiring supplies for an emergency preparedness kit? There are numerous grab-and-go kits available on Amazon, such as this one. Do you want to come up with your own kit in an emergency? Probably not.

Some of GeekMom’s friends have come up with some great preparedness tips, especially for technology:

– Leticia Barr from Tech Savvy Momma just re-presented her list of technology preparedness tips. An outstanding common-sense list that she presented just ahead of Superstorm Sandy hitting the northeast last fall.

Melanie at Frugal Kiwi has an all-purpose list that she presented in 2010 while Christchurch, New Zealand was being hit by numerous earthquakes and aftershocks.

Awareness Pays Dividends. Secondly, remain weather aware. There are now dozens of ways to do this. While you may have your favorite private weather forecasting companies (as do I), understand that when it comes to something as serious as a hurricane evacuation order, those orders will come from government agencies alone. You can start by establishing connections with government resources to get information “pushed” to you:

– Are you on Twitter? Follow the National Weather Service at @USNWSgov and the National Hurricane Center, @NHC_Atlantic and @NHC_Pacific. In addition, I personally also follow @TWCBreaking, @wunderground, and @breakingweather (administered by AccuWeather).

– How about Facebook? All your favorites are also on Facebook: The National Weather Service, the Storm Prediction Center, and the National Hurricane Center.

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– Do you prefer getting your information pushed to your e-mail inbox? You can subscribe to the National Weather Service’s e-mail service through this link (this also works for setting up getting tornado and severe thunderstorm watches pushed to you).

– FEMA is finalizing the ability for text alerts to be pushed to all cell phones in a geographic region, regardless of carrier or home zip code. This system, called the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), is available in most U.S. metropolitan areas. It’s free of charge and is a one-way transmission—no information will be collected from individual cell phone users.

– Know where to get information from your local emergency management agencies. FEMA is a good starting point for links to state EMAs. From there you can drill down to your county, city and town offices.

– I’m a Floridian, so I’ve found our one-stop shop for local hurricane preparedness at FloridaDiaster.org’s hurricane information page. Follow your local authorities on Twitter, Facebook and watch your state’s PSAs on their respective YouTube channels. Most states are now taking full advantage of social media to get the word out.

– Learn about your community’s C.E.R.T. Program. This map shows the counties with programs in place. The Community Emergency Response Team is a citizen-led program of volunteers that educates the community and responds to local disasters in concert with authorities. I’ve been in contact with my local C.E.R.T. and am proud to know that one of my neighbors is a recent graduate of their volunteer training program.

Keep Educated! Finally, here are some education resources to learn more about how tropical systems form, and how they’re predicted, tracked, and reported. These are ideal to share with your geeklings, they need to be taught to be aware also.

– A quick lesson on tropical cyclone formation, brought to you by NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographical and Meteorological Laboratory.

– About hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings.

– About the storm surge, which was the larger danger to the New Orleans area in the 24 hours following the onset of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

– About measuring tropical systems: The U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters and NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center.

– Learn about the locations that are used to define the ends of coastal watches and warnings through this interactive map by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

This was originally published as a hurricane preparedness post on GeekMom in May 2012.

Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 15. She is a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which is currently in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.