Archive for the ‘Thunderstorms’ Category

The Value of Mutual Assistance

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
Hours After a 30-Minute Thunderstorm

Hours After a 30-Minute Thunderstorm

A severe thunderstorm struck Rhode Island at about 6:30 this morning, knocking out trees, flooding roads and leaving more than 120,000 residents without power, more than were left without power following Superstorm Sandy. The storm brought wind gusts of 80 miles per hour, along with quarter-size hail and intense lightning strikes.  I took this photograph of a nearby home that was damaged when a tree fell on it. I took this picture when it was safe to do so, in the evening, after most of the tree had been removed. By mid-afternoon, you could heat the sounds of chain saws cutting up fallen trees.

National Grid, the local utility company, reported that the storm had knocked out power to 20 major power lines that serve 12 substations, 70 main distribution lines, and hundreds of power lines and equipment on local streets and in neighborhoods. The company sent 300 line crews, 110 tree crews, and 90 wires down/”cut-and-clear” crews to work with the electric grid to turn the power back on. Then National Grid reached out to its partners in the North Atlantic Mutual Assistance Group, a group formed to enable its 33 member utility companies to assist one another in the event of an emergency. Utility crews from eight northeastern states came to Rhode Island to assist in the efforts to restore power.  The mutual assistance framework now crosses national boundaries as well.

Hydro-Québec sent 60 employees, including 50 line workers as well as technical and logistics personnel, from Canada to Rhode Island to help National Grid crews. This was not the first time Hydro-Québec crews crossed the U.S. border to help the response to a severe storm. In January, the company sent 50 crews to Boston to assist after a severe blizzard. The mutual assistance framework provides a mechanism for the company requesting assistance to pay the costs of the utility companies that respond to the call for help and coordinates the logistics to avoid delays in responding.

We also saw informal mutual assistance in action as neighbors helped one another clear trees and remove debris well before responders could access the roads. I work with a virtual assistant who was accessible via cell phone. She re-scheduled my appointments for the day as it was impossible to leave my home. And I had my laptop and tablet fully charged so I was able to continue working and help others who were unable to place calls. The severe storm reminded me that it is time to update my own mutual assistance framework for my business.





Preparing for the Holiday Fireworks

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
Storm nervousness

Not Looking Forward to the 4th of July

In anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, people in our neighborhood are testing their firecrackers and causing fear and anxiety in one of my two canine office mates. It will likely be even worse this weekend. And, of course, even after the holiday, loud noises that frighten some dogs, including one of mine, can be expected to continue as thunderstorms are more common during the summer months.

When we are out walking and Coco hears loud noises (airplanes overhead, firecrackers, thunder), she immediately turns around and starts pulling on her leash to lead us home, where she feels safe. Henry is fine, but Coco does not like loud noises, although she doesn’t seem to mind sirens. When she hears a noise, and her hearing is much better than mine, she prefers to be safe in her home. And once home, or in the office, she tends to be very cling-y, following me room to room and jumping into my lap when I am at my desk, attempting to type on the computer keyboard.

If you have pets in your office, you might have to prepare for some mild pet anxiety that could interfere with your work as thunderstorms happen or people celebrate the summer months with firecrackers. I have found the following approaches to be helpful:

  • Keep the pets inside during fireworks or storms and stay close to them. If I have any flexibility in my schedule, I move appointments around so I can be in the office with Coco during a storm as she does become very anxious (excessive lip licking is the first sign) at that time. Make sure your ID tags and microchip information is current as, in the event a fearful dog bolts, you want to make it easier for someone to return your pet to you.
  • Get your exercise before the storm – it avoids the need to go out later as the rolling thunderstorms approach and gets the dog tired, which makes the anxiety easier to manage. Ideally, I’d have Coco so tired she’d sleep right through the storm. Keep the windows and doors closed to block out as much noise as possible.
  • Sometimes providing a safe place, like a comfortable pet bed or crate, or a toy can offer reassurance to a fearful dog. It doesn’t work for me, Coco loses her appetite when she is fearful, but I am told treats reassure other nervous dogs. Thundershirts, which are like compression garments for dogs, can also help.
  • Go about your day as you normally would. If you appear anxious, your dog will pick up on that and her anxiety will be even worse. To that end, I always make sure I do my grocery shopping in advance of a storm forecast. Because I get anxious about being out on the road when there is a thunderstorm.

Weather Headlines

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

My Weekend!

Today’s headlines on the Weather Channel’s website illustrate the diverse, crazy events across the U.S.:

  • “3 Dead After Strong Storm in Southern Missouri” describes a severe storm that struck the St. Louis area. Local authorities are trying to determine if the storm was a tornado or powerful straight-line winds.
  • “California: Last Rain of the Season” is the headline leading a story about heavy rainfall during California’s traditional dry season.  This headline is followed by
  • “Tender, Dry Conditions Keep West Fires Burning”. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history covering 377 square miles required an evacuation of the area. Progress in containing the western flank of the fire gave officials sufficient confidence to allow residents and business owners to return to Mogollon, a small private run ghost town in the area.
  • “Flooding Leaves Midwest Farms Buried in Sand” informs us of the challenges in removing sand, which doesn’t hold water and nutrients as soil does, to clear farmland.

And on the East Coast, we experienced heavy rain and record high tides. I took this photograph over the weekend, showing a tree knocked over by the storm. Fortunately, no one was harmed and the parking space was vacant.  But the message to take to heart is that we must be prepared for any type of weather, as past patterns appear to have limited predictive value.

April Showers

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
After the Storm

After the Storm

From my office window, I took this photograph of a rainbow across the Hudson River over Lower Manhattan. It is a beautiful reminder of one of the weather risks unique to this season. At any given time, more than 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring on the earth, more commonly in the spring and summer months, but they do happen year round. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thunderstorms always produce lightning, which injures an average of 300 people and causes about 80 deaths each year. It is actually the flash flooding, most often associated with thunderstorms, that causes more deaths than lightning. The following are safety guidelines from the American Red Cross for protecting yourself and your employees from the risk of thunderstorms:

Before lightning strikes

  • Watch for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Listen to the radio for the latest weather forecast.

The storm approaches

  • Find shelter in a building or car. Keep the windows closed.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances.
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can cause overload.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering indoors.

If you’re caught outside

  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
  • Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible by occupying the smallest surface area.

After the storm

  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.

If someone is struck by lightning

  • People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Call 911 or emergency medical services for help.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.

Make certain that your employees are familiar with these safety guidelines and encourage them to share this information with their families.