Communities from Illinois to Washington D.C. are still trying to recover from Friday’s massive complex of thunderstorms that left millions without power in the middle of a heat wave. The storms formed along an old frontal boundary in the Midwest and then tapped into extremely high levels of instability to form a derecho – a huge, curved line of storms that can last several hours traveling across many states with high winds and amazing amounts of lightning. Winds as high as 80-100 mph were reported with the storm complex downing a tremendous number of trees and power lines along the way. Four days later, the Associated Press is still reporting at least 1.4 million people are still without power in seven states and the District of Columbia with 22 deaths blamed on the storms, most from falling trees on homes and cars. In Virginia, the derecho caused the largest non-hurricane power outage in history. Read more about the recovery HERE.
These events demonstrate the fragility of our infrastructure. Whether from lightning storms, highs winds, ice storms, snow storms, hurricanes or tornadoes, loss of power for several days can be not only a huge inconvenience but a life-threatening situation as well – especially in extreme hot or cold conditions. There are ways to prepare for these storms.
1. Have a designated safe area in your home where you go in the event of extreme weather. This area should be a small, interior room, such as a closet or bathroom, on the lowest floor possible away from windows.
2. In your safe area, have an emergency kit with items such as a flashlight with extra batteries, water and non-perishable food items which can last at least three days, a first aid kit, extra store of regular prescription medicines, a blanket, work gloves and a whistle (in case of damage to the home so people can find you). You can keep these items in a small chest or box. Remember to change out the supplies on a regular basis for items that are affected by age such as medicines.
3. Consider investing in a back-up generator. This should be a real consideration for those of you who live in areas susceptible to tropical storms, tornadoes and heavy snowstorms. There are many options ranging from small portable generators to large whole-home emergency generators that automatically come on when the power fails. Read more about generator options HERE.
4. Have a source of emergency weather information. A weather radio is a great source of information during weather emergencies. These can be purchased at most stores these days including Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Walgreens, Kroger, Radio Shack and many others. Read how to never miss another weather alert HERE.
Just following these four suggestions can make getting through a weather emergency much easier. The time to think about these steps is before the emergency, not after. Preparation can make all the difference.