Sunday, November 27, 2011

Further Info On Surviving Hurricanes

Hurricane survival skills are essential knowledge for many people around the world, including the United States. Here in the US, hurricanes are mostly known to strike the states along the Gulf of Mexico, but they can sometimes travel up as far as Maine to the Northeast given the right conditions. Survival skills for hurricanes are a mix of the obvious and some aspects that might not be common sense to many citizens, as they are constantly changing along with technology.

Perhaps some of the more obvious skills for hurricane survival are taking cover. If the hurricane is not expected to lead to floods, one should take cover underground, tie down heavy objects, and board up windows. Flying glass leads to most cyclone-related deaths because of its ubiquitous use in modern construction and because the shards are razor sharp. Flower pots and other ceramics should be brought indoors because their shards bear the same ability to cut and stab when flying at high speed.

Citizens who plan on waiting out a hurricane should have enough food and water to survive for three days or more. Because electricity is usually cut during hurricanes to prevent fires and explosions, people should be prepared to eat canned or vacuum-sealed foods that will not easily spoil. Bottled water is also essential because the powerful winds of a hurricane may lead to floods that can contaminate municipal water sources. Homeowners should also turn off their natural gas outlets in order to prevent poisonous gas leaks, fires, or explosions. 

Among the less obvious measures that enhance survival during hurricanes are radios and text messaging. Many radios need only batteries to perform and citizens can stay updated on events occurring around them rather than having to rely on electricity-powered computers and televisions. Information can mean life and death in many situations, so sheltering people should stay informed as often as possible about developments occurring around them. Text messaging is a much more efficient way to communicate with the outside world because their frequencies do not clog up cell phone towers in the way that phone calls do. Phones with keyboards are best suited for the practice of text messaging, so citizens should prepare accordingly.

Following these suggestions should maximize your ability to survive in a disaster brought about by a hurricane. If flooding is expected, one should abandon their home and drive in-land. There are few measures one can take to survive flooded urban areas due to the contaminated water, destroyed supplies, and lack of shelter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch occurred during the summer of 1998 and would come to be known as the second most destructive hurricane in recorded history. Mitch struck ten different countries, most heavily Honduras, and killed almost 19,000 people, caused 6 billion dollars in damages, and led to the homelessness of over three million people all across Central America. Tens of thousands remain missing to this day, although they are presumed to have perished in the storms.
Hurricane Mitch was designated as a Category 5 storm, which is the strongest possible rating on the modern scale. Its winds blew up to 190 mph and led to massive floods, squalls, and cyclone winds. Several countries ordered “red alerts,” which led to the evacuation of millions in major cities across Central and South America, including Belize City, which saw its entire population evacuated. Despite these measures, many were still unable to avoid the effects of the storm because of a combination of poor infrastructure, lack of knowledge on essential hurricane survival skills in the general populace, and poor prevention efforts on the part of many leaders in the affected countries.
The damage was most severe in Honduras, where the president stated that the hurricane had destroyed fifty years worth of progress in the form of infrastructural damage. Flooding was widespread, transportation had shut down, and it was near impossible to reach many people in affected areas. Epidemic diseases carried by the flood waters had exploded within the population which led to thousands of dead and thousands more suffering. Hurricane Mitch had created a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
It is hard to imagine what survival skills that citizens could have used to prevent the catastrophic loss of life that emerged in Mitch’s wake. The flooding was so extensive and so rapid that many citizens likely could not have gotten far enough inland in time to avoid the roaring waters. Honduras, a poor country, likely did not possess the helicopters and transport vehicles necessary to evacuate, rescue, and deliver supplies to their countrymen. It is a difficult question to ask “what if,” in a situation where so much damage has been done, but it is a necessary one in order to ensure that such cataclysms do not occur in the future.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hurricane Katrina 2005

Hurricane Katrina 2005
Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans on August 29th, 2005 catching the city unprepared for the massive floods that its squalls would bring. Katrina led to the structural failure of New Orleans federally constructed levee system, leaving 80% of the city totally flooded and leading to the deaths of 700 citizens. The storm would serve as a cultural watershed for America, not only because of the massive loss of human life, but because of the subsequent failure of the federal government organization, FEMA, to respond and rescue the survivors of the hardest-hit areas in timely fashion. The wards of New Orleans that were most heavily flooded and subsequently neglected by FEMA were also mostly populated by African-American citizens, leading to a debate of whether racism still influenced policy in the United States at its highest levels. 

Hurricane Survival Tips
There are few hurricane survival tips that could prepare New Orleans residents to survive the massive floods that Katrina brought. Many homes were flooded up to their roofs, communication infrastructure had been destroyed in many areas, and the city lacked the medical and food supplies to care for many of the people who took refuge in areas like the Superdome. For several days after the storm, New Orleans ceased to resemble any part of civilization as the scenes being broadcast that depicted its aftermath were more reminiscent of the ongoing US war in Iraq. Bodies were lying dead in the streets, entire city blocks were destroyed, and refugees were holed up in areas that lacked the infrastructure and supplies to care for them all. Most painfully, the lack of response from FEMA made it seem as if the rest of the country did not care about the plight that had befallen New Orleans.

During a live, televised charity drive for victims of Katrina, musician Kanye West appeared onscreen, clearly agitated by the ongoing suffering in New Orleans. Near the end of his broadcast, he boldly blurted out “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” which sparked enormous controversy around the country. West suggested that the snail’s pace by which FEMA had gone to assist the black areas of New Orleans while the districts populated by mostly whites had been rapidly assisted was due to a structural level of racism on part of the federal government. His words, whether or not they were true, clearly fanned the flames of negative sentiment surrounding the entire disaster and effectively added another dimension to the suffering taking place there.

The events following Hurricane Katrina led to a total restructuring of FEMA and the resignation of its director. The tragedy brought many together, but pushed many apart, and would prove to be a pivotal moment in United States history.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene
Less than a month ago, Hurricane Irene, one of the largest recorded storms in United States history, lashed the coasts of fifteen different states and caused about $15 billion in damage. Evacuation orders were issued for several cities and regions across the country, notable among them New York City and Long Island, which were believed to be the locations that would bear the brunt of Irene’s wrath.  Anxiety had grown so high that even President Obama issued a federal evacuation order for New York and ominously warned the nation that Hurricane Irene held the potential to be a “historic” storm. While the hurricane was already designated as the type bearing the least danger, with a “Category 1” rating as it barreled south from North Carolina, fears of a repeat of the indecision that came to characterize the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 no doubt influenced city, state, and federal officials to prevent any and all disasters that may befall the population.

370,000 people were ordered to evacuate from the New York City and Long Island areas by city Mayor Bloomberg. Leaflets with hurricane survival tips were distributed among people in outlying areas, and electricity was shut off. By the time the evacuations were in full effect on August 26, even the iconic Times Square had been emptied of its usual hubbub, an eerie scene for those who are familiar with what is one of the liveliest urban districts on the planet. Hurricane Irene had proven that mankind was still no match for the forces of Mother Nature.

New York City officials advised residents to pull all furniture, flower pots, and everything else not tied down outside their homes inside in order to minimize the risk of flying wood, steel, and clay causing damage. In addition, residents were advised to communicate via text messaging in order to maximize the effectiveness of their communication efforts. Text messaging does not clog up reception towers the way phone calls do, so they are much more likely to be received. Residents promptly emptied store shelves of food and bottled water in order to survive what might have been a true disaster, as had been warned by state and federal officials.

Fortunately, minimal damage was done when the storm finally arrived to the shores of New York City. The Hudson River flooded, and some property damage was recorded, but there had been no loss of life as a result of the storm. The impending doom facing New York never materialized, and the evacuation probably was not even necessary, but I feel that most people would agree that it is always better to be safe than sorry.