Weather Wednesday

Rick Atterberry, EDEN Immediate Past Chair begins a new series about weather with this post. 

Freezing cold thermometer iconMany northern and central states have Wind Chill Warnings or Advisories this week.  Wind chills tonight may exceed 60-degrees below zero in some areas.  In that range frostbite may occur to exposed flesh within minutes.  In addition, recent snowfall in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and several other states was of the dry and fluffy variety.  There is a high chance for blowing and drifting snow even though no new snow will be falling.  Visibilities will be reduced and travel may be difficult.

Here’s a link to a very brief summary of best practices from FEMA. The FEMA release includes a further link to more information from NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Several key messages:

  • Check on relatives, friends and neighbors, especially those who are homebound or have special needs.
  • If you have plumbing along exterior walls or in uninsulated spaces leave a trickle of water running and/or open under-sink cabinet doors.
  • Do not attempt to use a blowtorch or other heating device such as a paint stripping gun to thaw frozen pipes.  Get warm air circulating around the pipes or call a plumber.
  • Make sure your Carbon Monoxide detectors are operating properly and have fresh batteries.
  • Do not use a stove, oven or other appliance designed for intermittent use as a heat source.
  • Never fill a kerosene heater indoors.  Allow the unit to cool and fill it outdoors.
  • Avoid using extension cords with electric heaters.  Occasionally feel the attached cord on the heater and the wall outlet into which it is plugged.  If either the cord or the outlet is warm to the touch discontinue use of the heater.
  • Never warm up a vehicle by operating the engine in an enclosed space such as an attached garage.
  • Keep vehicle fuel tanks topped up.
  • If you must travel, make sure you let people know your intended route and anticipated time of arrival.  Leave home with a fully charged cell phone if possible and make sure you have a charger with you.  Keep an emergency kit in your car including a flashlight, high energy food bars, bottled water or a safe means to melt snow for drinking, blanket, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, jumper cables, etc.
  • Stay aware of the official names of the roads on which you are travelling and note mile markers or intersections in case you need to report your location.
  • Stay with your vehicle if it becomes stuck or disabled.   Run the vehicle for about ten minutes each hour to provide heat, but crack a window away from the exhaust pipe when doing so and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
  • Do not use cruise control when roads are wet, icy or snow-covered.

Most importantly, give the first responders, tow truck operators and snowplow drivers a break and stay home if at all possible.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Sonja Koukel

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Sonja Koukel

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?Sonja Koukel
My initial involvement in disaster preparedness and emergency planning occurred when I was employed as a University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension district agent based in Juneau (2005-2010). One of the most important roles I played in that capacity happened when an avalanche took out the hydropower lines affecting 30,000 residents. As the Extension agent, I provided information to the Governor’s office covering topic areas from keeping foods safe to safe use of alternative fuel heat sources. When I relocated to New Mexico, I approached Billy Dictson – then, the Point of Contact (POC) – and asked what I could do to help. I became an EDEN delegate, attended the 2010 Lexington, KY, annual meeting and have attended every annual meeting since. I also became the POC when Mr. Dictson retired.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
This is another area in which Billy Dictson played a large part. He was a founding member of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center housed on the New Mexico State University campus. In a nutshell, the Center helps communities plan and exercise food protection planning and incident response, all hazards agriculture response and recovery planning, and risk assessment planning. When I arrived in NM, Mr. Dictson hired me to coordinate the Food Safety Initiative. Upon his retirement, 2012, I stepped into the position of Co-Director for the Center. As an Extension Specialist, and through my connection with the Center, I assist in helping raise awareness of disaster preparedness with Extension county agents and the general public, by providing materials, resources, and exploring the best use of social media in response and recovery.

3. How have you seen disaster preparedness differ from state to state?
While the nature of the potential disaster may differ – avalanches in Alaska / wildfires in New Mexico – I find the act of preparedness very similar no matter where you live. The greatest difficulty is in getting individuals to actively engage in preparedness as most have the “it will never happen to me” mentality. In both Alaska and New Mexico, my work revolves around raising awareness, engaging Extension agents and community members in training and exercises, and then keeping people involved during the absence of disasters.

4. What can EDEN delegates look forward to for the 2015 EDEN Annual meeting?
Bienviendos! The Annual Meeting will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico – also known as “The City of the Crosses.” Located about 50 miles north of the Mexican border, with a population of just over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the state and is home to New Mexico State University – the land-grant institution of NM.

EDEN delegates have a unique opportunity to visit the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The border crossing is the busiest in the U.S. averaging over 300,000 animals a year. Visit their website for videos and more in-depth information. We are currently planning: a tour of the Santa Teresa “inland port” Union Pacific rail facility and a visit to Old Mesilla, NM, where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Visit the EDEN homepage for information on the post-meeting trip to Albuquerque – an EDEN excursion to the International Balloon Fiesta!

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual meeting?
Attending Annual Meeting is a source of motivation for me. Reconnecting with EDEN professionals who have become friends over the years, meeting new delegates, and attending the informational sessions are my favorite parts. I’m always amazed with the incredible work the EDEN group accomplishes year after year. Muscle Shoals, AL, is a fabulous place and a location I don’t think I would have experienced had it not been for EDEN.

Family Preparedness Friday

Who Turned the Lights Out?

When temperatures dip to the single digits, and the winds are blowing in from the north, and snow is piling up at your front door, what’s your plan for when the power goes out?

Photo attributed to Flickr user Roadsidepictures.
Photo attributed to Flickr user Roadsidepictures.

Unfortunately , winter power outages are not an uncommon occurrence in many parts of our country. If you live in one of these areas, here are some tips to help you and your family get through the next power outage.

  •  If you have no alternative heat, you can consider staying in an emergency shelter, call your local fire or police department or local Red Cross chapter for shelter locations.
  • Call your power provider, if your power is likely to be out for more than a few days, you may want to call your plumber and ask about draining your home’s water pipes so they don’t freeze and burst.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. You never know if you may need to go to a warming station or emergency shelter.
  • Wear layers of clothing. Layering can keep insulating air between layers to help keep you warmer. Remember to keep your head and hands covered.
  • Cook using charcoal or propane grills – ONLY OUTSIDE.
  • Put aside buckets of snow and melt it to use in toilets.
  • Keep a land line phone, you won’t have to worry about charging a cell phone.

You might also consider stocking up on:

  • Candles, oil lamps, lanterns and matches
  • Battery operated weather radio
  • Flashlights and batteries for  each family member
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Bottled water
  • Propane for an OUTDOOR grill
  • Extra gasoline if you have a generator. A portable electric generator can be a valuable backup source of power to operate your furnace and appliances.
  • First-aid supplies
  • Emergency numbers – fire, police, doctor
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper goods: Paper plates, paper towels, plastic ware

Source: “Winter Power Outages: Be prepared for that unexpected winter power outage” from Michigan State University Extension