Thursday, November 01, 2012
Flooding at Holman Municipal Airport sometime in the 1940's.
From NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection, image wea 00745
Photographer: Archival Photography by Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS
We’ve been seeing our fair share of severe weather in the DC region over the last year or so: heavy snowfall
. All of these events stopped time for us. Literally. Power outages crippled the region and had us stocking up on candles, canned goods and batteries and buttering up our neighbors with generators because Home Depot was sold out of them by the time we got there. Some people are paying more attention to the survival-type shows on TV
to pick up tips on preparing for the worst.
Your local library branch also has some great resources for you. We can help you prepare for and survive nature’s wrath and also help keep cabin fever at bay when you are sheltering in place. Let’s start with the preparations…
Take a stroll to the 613.9 area of non-fiction for survival tips and look for books like:
Now that you have your plans in place, browse through the rest of the library to find entertainment for your weather-proof bunker.
Read fiction to match the atmosphere with books like: Ashfall
, about a catastrophic volcano eruption that separates a young man from his family; Life as We Knew It
, about a meteor knocking the moon out of its orbit and the changes that wreaks on the earth; or the classic Swiss Family Robinson
, about a family shipwrecked on a deserted island.
Read non-fiction and be thankful that the worst thing you are suffering is losing cable for a few hours or having to eat PB & J for every meal for three days, like: Into the Wild,
about a young man who drove a bus into remote Alaskan wilderness and disappeared; The Perfect Storm
, about fisherman lost 500 miles off the New England shores battling extreme waves and churning seas; or Alive
or Miracle in the Andes
, about a plane crashed on a remote glacier in the Andes and the unimaginable decisions the survivors had to make in order to live and seek rescue.
If you still have power and internet connection, explore the E-Library
and download a classic to read aloud or listen to with the family, find tunes to keep you dancing on Freegal
or learn a new language with Mango Languages
Stock up on DVDs using this list of… even though the list is mostly limited to natural disasters and does not include surviving zombies
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Pictures of the recent storm June 29, 2012 Derecho photo by Samuel Shea, shelf cloud from the developing derecho in Chicago on June 29, 2012 taken in Woodridge, a western suburb of Chicago. Image Credit: NWS Meteorologist Samuel Shea, and used here with his permission. To see a larger version of this picture, click here.
Radar graphics of the derecho as it rolled over Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. Click on these to view larger version.
The screenshots above were taken from radar gifs from the CIMSS Satelite Blog Derecho moving southeastward from the Midwest to the East Coast
. There are a number of graphics and animated gifs there that you can view to watch the storm develop and roll over us. Photos there are in the public domain, but all credit
goes to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA.
For even more detailed images, see the graphics and videos of the June 29 storm at EarthSky
. You'll find another dramatic photo at the NASA Earth Observatory
, with a description of what a derecho is, and why this one was so powerful and devastating:
The storm was what meteorologists call a derecho. Deriving its name from the Spanish term for “straight ahead,” derecho storms generally blow in one direction. They do not swirl like tornadoes, but they can cause tornado-style damage. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the wind gusts in the June 29 derecho rivaled those of an EF-1 tornado.
The June 29 derecho occurred along the boundary of two air masses. In the north, the air was stable and dry. In the south, the air was unstable and moist. And hot. The Capital Weather Gang reported that, before the derecho began, areas affected by the southern air mass were facing record-high temperatures—109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in Nashville, Tennessee, and Columbia, South Carolina; and 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) in Washington, DC. This hot, humid air provided fuel for the windstorm, which pulled the air skyward, then returned it in violent downdrafts.
Derechos have occurred before, and were actually given their name in the late nineteenth century. They occur most often in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of the United States, between May and July. To qualify as a derecho, a storm must cause damage over 240 miles (400 kilometers) and pack wind gusts of at least 58 miles (93 kilometers) per hour. The June 29 derecho damage extended over a much greater length, and the storm brought wind gusts of more than 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour. The June 29 storm did not just qualify as a derecho. It was, according to the Capital Weather Gang, “one of the most destructive complexes of thunderstorms in memory.”
The NOAA-NWS-NCEP Storm Prediction Center web site has a Derecho Information page, including the July 1995 derechos, one of which leveled over five million trees in Minnesota. There is a lot of information on the Derecho Information page, including excellent graphics that demonstrate how a derecho works.
There are a number of weather related websites filled with useful information. One of my favorites is not one that follows the daily weather, but that follows cloud formations, The Cloud Appreciation Society, and particularly their Photo Gallery. They feature a photo of the month, and a place to submit your own photo. My favorite is just browsing through the photo slide shows. The photo collection comes from submissions from around the entire world.
These days the library collection includes the internet. If you need help finding information on the internet, be sure to ask your public librarian. We have lots of experience and training in how to look and especially important, where to look to find answers.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
It seems as if I have one eye on the sky most afternoons now, as I try to finish whatever outdoor activity I have planned before the thunderstorms roll in for the evening. I’m signed up for Montgomery County’s Alert Montgomery service, which sends me text messages when there are severe weather watches or warnings posted for Montgomery County. Lately my phone buzzes each afternoon with one or two updates.
The level of dangerous weather across the country makes me wonder if the weather has really gotten worse lately, or if I just never noticed it when I was a kid. There are lots of conflicting viewpoints on this, too many to mention here, but it seems as though bad weather comes and goes in cycles.
Once again, the library offers a nice selection of interesting weather related books, and I’ve listed a few of them below. If you’re a Weather Channel junkie, these will be right up your Tornado Alley.
In "Extreme Weather" by Christopher Burt, you can check weather statistics and observations for the US going back to the late 1800s. The book is arranged by type of weather, such as Heat and Drought; Rain and Floods; Tornadoes; and so on. Lots of illustrations, historic photos and sidebars make it an interesting browsing choice for those interested in weather, and the statistical charts make it a good choice for those doing educational research on US weather.
I am outside fairly often during the summer months, often with a bunch of people and horses participating in some kind of competition. That eye I keep to the sky is backed up by listening for the distant rumble of thunder. More than once already this year we’ve put a hold on all activity when a lightning bolt is noticed off in the distance, and everyone moves to safety. According to "Out of the Blue: a History of Lightning" by John Freidman, the odds of being hit are only 1 in 750,000, but no one wants to risk even those pretty long odds. This book looks at man’s fascination with lightning from earliest civilizations up to today’s risk taking storm chasers, and profiles people like a park ranger who has survived an amazing seven lightning strikes!
Residents of various parts of the US, particularly Joplin and Tuscaloosa are beginning the rebuilding process after a series of vicious spring tornados leveled sections of their cities. Tornadoes even touched down in Maryland this spring. The book "F5" by Mark Levinelooks at a 16 hour period on April 3, 1974 in which 148 tornadoes, 6 of them classified as F5, ranged over thirteen states in the country’s heartland. The book, which reads in the style of a fast paced disaster novel, follows a cast of characters over the course of those hours, as their lives are suddenly changed forever.
The other main weather related issue impacting the US this year is flooding, and I can personally attest to this one. Our little creek, which has not flooded in the 14 years we’ve been here, was up and over it’s banks and in the bottom pasture this spring. I know this doesn’t compare to the destruction caused by all of the record flooding along the Mississippi and in the Dakotas, but it was a surprise to me!
An excellent book about one of the most well known floods in American history is The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. McCullough’s book draws from a myriad of primary source material including tapes of conversations with survivors, court records, engineering reports and unpublished letters and diaries. The Johnstown flood struck on May 31st, 1889, as the dam holding back the waters of man made Lake Conemaugh failed after several days of heavy rain. Over 2000 people perished, and downtown Johnstown was destroyed. McClullough explores the culpability of the wealthy members of the club which owned the private lake, and follows the stories of families caught in the disaster. If you happen to be in Johnstown this summer on a road trip you can visit the flood museum.
Hopefuly you personally will never have to deal with a weather emergency as serious as the ones that are described in these books. But it’s always good to be prepared! A good place to start is this webpage on severe weather preparedness from NOAA’s Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services. There are video and pdf guides to Thunderstorms and Lightning, Tornadoes and Floods. Take a look and find out how you can protect yourself from extreme weather.
Montgomery County Public Libraries