Archived Storm Damage Blog Posts
Damaging Winds Basics
What are damaging winds?
Damaging winds are often called “straight-line” winds to differentiate the damage they cause from tornado damage. Strong thunderstorm winds can come from a number of different processes. Most thunderstorm winds that cause damage at the ground are a result of outflow generated by a thunderstorm downdraft. Damaging winds are classified as those exceeding 50-60 mph.
Are damaging winds really a big deal?
Damage from severe thunderstorm winds account for half of all severe reports in the lower 48 states and is more common than damage from tornadoes. Wind speeds can reach up to 100 mph and can produce a damage path extending for hundreds of miles.
Who is at risk from damaging winds?
Since most thunderstorms produce some straight-line winds as a result of outflow generated by the thunderstorm downdraft, anyone living in thunderstorm-prone areas of the world is at risk for experiencing this hazard.
People living in mobile homes are especially at risk for injury and death. Even anchored mobile homes can be seriously damaged when winds gust over 80 mph.
Types of Damaging Winds
Straight-line wind is a term used to define any thunderstorm wind that is not associated with rotation, and is used mainly to differentiate from tornadic winds.
A downdraft is a small-scale column of air that rapidly sinks toward the ground.
A downburst is a result of a strong downdraft. A downburst is a strong downdraft with horizontal dimensions larger than 4 km (2.5 mi) resulting in an outward burst of damaging winds on or near the ground. (Imagine the way water comes out of a faucet and hits the bottom of the sink.) Downburst winds may begin as a microburst and spread out over a wider area, sometimes producing damage similar to a strong tornado. Although usually associated with thunderstorms, downbursts can occur with showers too weak to produce thunder.
A microburst is a small concentrated downburst that produces an outward burst of damaging winds at the surface. Microbursts are generally small (less than 4km across) and short-lived, lasting only 5-10 minutes, with maximum windspeeds up to 168 mph. There are two kinds of microbursts: wet and dry. A wet microburst is accompanied by heavy precipitation at the surface. Dry microbursts, common in places like the high plains and the intermountain west, occur with little or no precipitation reaching the ground.
A gust front is the leading edge of rain-cooled air that clashes with warmer thunderstorm inflow. Gust fronts are characterized by a wind shift, temperature drop, and gusty winds out ahead of a thunderstorm. Sometimes the winds push up air above them, forming a shelf cloud or detached roll cloud.
A derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. A typical derecho consists of numerous microbursts, downbursts, and downburst clusters. By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho.
How To Prepare For The Next Big Storm
Damage from a neighbor’s tree is usually covered by your insurer, not your neighbor’s.
Cover windows properly. Experts used to recommend taping windows to limit breakage to a few large pieces, rather than many smaller ones. But small and large pieces can be equally deadly. A safer bet: Keep windows shut and close blinds, shades, and drapes. Longer-term, consider impact-resistant windows or hurricane shutters (about $40 per square foot), which might also net you an insurance discount.
Secure outdoor items. High winds can turn lawn chairs, potted plants, trash cans, and other outdoor items into deadly projectiles. Move whatever you can into a garage, a shed, or a basement.
Park cars on high ground. Two feet of floodwater can carry a car away. What’s more, driving in water just 8 inches deep can ruin the engine if the water seeps in through the air intake. Park at a high elevation or on a hill—but not beneath trees.
Protect your valuables. Move what you can to higher floors if you expect flooding. Also think ahead by documenting and photographing items you’d include in an insurance claim if lost or ruined.
Stock up on essentials
Build an emergency kit. It should have a whistle to attract help, dust masks, duct tape, a wrench or pliers to turn off water if needed, flashlights and batteries, and local maps. Plan on 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. Include moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation. Also consider changes of clothing and sleeping bags or blankets.
Be prepared for injuries. A first-aid kit should be stocked with bandages in various sizes, sterile dressings and gloves, hand sanitizer and antibiotic towelettes, a thermometer, pain medicines, tweezers, and scissors.
Fuel up. Fill all of your vehicles’ tanks, because gas stations could lose power. Remember that most gas generators require roughly 12 to 20 gallons of gas per day. Also figure on at least a gallon of gas for extensive chainsawing. Store all fuel away from the house.
Have the right phones. Keep at least one corded phone because cordless phones require AC power. Our post-Sandy survey also found that cell phones were more reliable than landline phones, though we lack data on differences for fiber and cable vs.older copper-wire systems. Be sure cell phones are charged. And have an out-of-town contact you can call, because long-distance phone service can be more reliable than local service during and after a storm.
Get the right foods. Frozen food may last two days without power, but refrigerated items can spoil after 4 hours. Keep at least a three-day supply of nonperishable foods such as crackers, whole-grain cereals, and canned foods. And don’t forget the manual can opener.
Check your fire extinguishers. You should have one with a minimum classification of “2-A:10-B:C” on each floor. Check the dial or pop-up pin for adequate pressure each month. Professionally repressurize extinguishers older than six years, and replace any older than 12 years.
Prepare for special needs. Tell your utility and local fire department before a storm if someone in your home uses an oxygen concentrator, ventilator, or medical bed; your power could be restored sooner. And keep a one-month supply of medication during hurricane season.
Tune in. A battery-powered or hand-cranked radio will keep you connected if your computer or the Internet is down. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radios are also handy for emergency information.
Have some ready cash. Banks and ATMs could be out of service, assuming you can get to them.
Stay safe during the storm
Find the safest place. Stay in a central room without windows. Have kids? Ease the fear factor with books, a toy or two, and if you have power or a generator, some movies and video games.
Avoid electrocution risks. Don’t use any plug-in device if flooding or wetness is nearby. Landline phones can also be a shock hazard in an electrical storm. If you must make a call during a storm, use a cell or cordless phone if possible—or use a landline phone’s speaker mode to reduce contact with the handset. Avoid baths and showers until the storm passes. And watch out for downed power lines and live wires.
Use cars safely. Obey emergency crews and follow designated routes. If your vehicle stalls in water, shut off the ignition and seek higher ground; the leading cause of Sandy-related deaths was drowning.
What To Do In A Storm
What to do in a stormThere are a number of things that you can do to make sure you and your property stay safe during storms. For life-threatening emergencies call 911.
What to do before the storm
Ensure you do the following before a severe storm arrives:
- Check that loose items such as outdoor settings, umbrellas and trampolines are safely secured.
- If it is safe to do so, check gutters, downpipes and drains are not blocked.
- Park your car undercover and away from trees.
What to do during the storm
Ensure you do the following during a severe storm:
- Stay indoors and away from windows.
- If outdoors, shelter away from drains, gutters, creeks and waterways.
- Be prepared for power outages.
- Floodwater is dangerous – never drive, walk or ride through floodwater.
- Floodwater is toxic – never play or swim in floodwater.
What to do after the storm
Ensure you do the following after a severe storm:
- Check your home and property for damage.
- Keep clear of damaged buildings, powerlines and trees.
- Be aware of road hazards such as floodwater, debris and damaged roads or bridges.
- Do not drive through affected areas unless it is necessary.
Prepare For Flooding
With all of the flooding that is happening in the Pacific Northwest SERVPRO of Skagit County, Marysville/Arlington wants to make sure that you are all staying safe! If you have yet to experience any flooding but are on alert remember to be prepared. Here is a list of essential preparation items that the American Red Cross recommends:
· Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
· Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
· Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
· Extra batteries
· First Aid kit
· Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
· Multi-purpose tool
· Sanitation and personal hygiene items
· Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
· Cell phone with chargers
· Family and emergency contact information
· Extra cash
· Emergency blanket
· Map(s) of the area
· Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
· Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
· Tools/supplies for securing your home
· Extra set of car keys and house keys
· Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
· Rain gear
· Insect repellent and sunscreen
· Camera for photos of damage
Remember that SERVPRO is always here to help if you experience any flooding or water damage within your home! Stay safe! Check out http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flood for more great flood preparedness and safety tips!
How To Survive Severe Storms
What to do during a severe storms
- If you are indoors, stay away from windows, doors and fireplaces.
- You may want to go to the sheltered area that you and your family chose for your emergency plan.
- If you are advised by officials to evacuate, do so. Take your emergency kit with you.
- You can use a cellular telephone during a severe storm, but it's not safe to use a land-line telephone.
- Never go out in a boat during a storm. If you are on the water and you see bad weather approaching, head for shore immediately. Always check the marine forecast before leaving for a day of boating and listen to weather reports during your cruise.
- If you are in a car, stop the car away from trees or power lines that might fall on you). Stay there.
What to do during
- When a winter storm hits, stay indoors. If you must go outside, dress for the weather. Outer clothing should be tightly woven and water-repellent. The jacket should have a hood. Wear mittens - they are warmer than gloves - and a hat, as large portion of body heat is lost through the head.
- In wide-open areas, visibility can be virtually zero during heavy blowing snow or a blizzard. You can easily lose your way. If a blizzard strikes, do not try to walk to another building unless there is a rope to guide you or something you can follow.
- If you must travel during a winter storm, do so during the day and let someone know your route and arrival time.
- If your car gets stuck in a blizzard or snowstorm, remain calm and stay in your car. Allow fresh air in your car by opening the window slightly on the sheltered side - away from the wind. You can run the car engine about 10 minutes every half-hour if the exhaust system is working well. Beware of exhaust fumes and check the exhaust pipe periodically to make sure it is not blocked with snow. Remember: you can't smell potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes.
- To keep your hands and feet warm, exercise them periodically. In general, it is a good idea to keep moving to avoid falling asleep. If you do try to shovel the snow from around your car, avoid overexerting yourself.
- Overexertion in the bitter cold can cause death as a result of sweating or a heart attack.
- Keep watch for traffic or searchers.
- Take cover when hail begins to fall. Do not go out to cover plants, cars or garden furniture or to rescue animals. Hail comes down at great speed, especially when accompanied by high winds. Although no one in Canada has ever been killed by hail, people have been seriously injured by it.
- When a hailstorm hits, stay indoors, and keep yourself and your pets away from windows, glass doors and skylights which can shatter if hit by hailstones. Avoid using the telephone during a storm, and do not touch metal objects like stoves, radiators, metal pipes, and sinks.
- When a hailstorm hits, find shelter and avoid underpasses or any low lying areas that may flood.
- Ice from freezing rain accumulates on branches, power lines and buildings. If you must go outside when a significant amount of ice has accumulated, pay attention to branches or wires that could break due to the weight of the ice and fall on you. Ice sheets could also do the same.
- Never touch power lines. A hanging power line could be charged (live) and you would run the risk of electrocution. Remember also that ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after the end of the precipitation.
- When freezing rain is forecast, avoid driving. Even a small amount of freezing rain can make roads extremely slippery. Wait several hours after freezing rain ends so that road maintenance crews have enough time to spread sand or salt on icy roads.
- Rapid onsets of freezing rain combined with the risks of blizzards increase the chances for extreme hypothermia. If you live on a farm, move livestock promptly to shelter where feed is available. Forage is often temporarily inaccessible during and immediately after ice storms. Animal reactions to ice storms are similar to that of blizzards.
- Always take shelter during a lightning storm.
- There is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm. Safe shelter can be found either in an enclosed building or a hard-topped vehicle.
- If you can see lightning or hear thunder, you are in danger of being hit. Seek shelter immediately.
- Wait 30 minutes after the last lightning strike in a severe storm before venturing outside again.
- Do not ride bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, or golf carts. These will not protect you from a lightning strike.
- During thunderstorms, you should also stay away from items that conduct electricity, such as corded telephones, appliances, sinks, bathtubs, radiators and metal pipes.