Weather Wednesday – El Nino and the Texas Floods

KHOU via USA Today
KHOU via USA Today

What caused the recent devastating and deadly flooding in Texas, Oklahoma and other states? One thought, advanced by Accuweather and others, is that the developing El Nino played a role. As we’ve written before, an El Nino is warmer than expected waters in the Pacific Ocean. El Nino events result in a split jet stream and it the southern stream likely contributed to the flooding in the South. Typically, heavier than normal rains occur in Spring, Autumn and Winter of El Nino years in a swath from California into the Mid-South.

EPA
EPA

Historically, even weak and/or developing El Ninos can cause the extreme precipitation witnessed in May. California largely missed out although the area around San Diego picked up record rainfall. In past El Nino events California received most of its precipitation during winter months. It remains to be seen if the current event will last that long.

In the meantime drought conditions have been greatly lessened in Texas, at least in the short term. Of course that came with a terrible price…dozens of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The toll continues to rise and many rivers remain in flood.
EDEN Flood Resources:

Agriculture

Flood insurance

Misc collected resources

eXtension Flood Page

4 things to do during a hurricane

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

Last week we discussed what to do to prepare, before a hurricane forms. This week we will discuss what to during a hurricane in your area. Even though there are no hurricanes on either side of the US currently, it is never too early to prepare!

Hurrican 1. Listen to a weather radio or app
The best way to stay informed during a hurricane is to listen to a weather radio. Nowadays there are apps that do the same thing, but I would be wary about using them during a storm because the power may be out and your phone can die quickly when using them. You may ask, why should I listen to the weather radio, I already know a hurricane is in my area. Because hurricanes can cause other natural disasters such as: tornadoes, hail, flooding, and landslides. The best way to be prepared for these is to be informed.

2. Ensure food & water availability
One important thing to have during a hurricane is enough food and water for you and your family. The issue with this, is having food that can be eaten without power. For a list of suggested ready to eat food to have, visit this website. For a safe water supply fill up tubs for water to flush toilets. For safe drinking water fill up large containers, estimate a gallon of water a day per person for a few days. For more water tips visit here.

food safety3. Ensure (cold) food safety
One easy way to keep cold food safe is to turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. If the fridge temperature rises above 40 degrees for more than two hours go ahead and discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, leftovers, fish, and eggs. If your freezer rises above 40 degrees for an extended period of time and the food no longer has ice crystals on it throw it out. Never taste food to see if it is still good. Remember this handy tip: when in doubt, throw it out!

4. Evacuation
If you are considering evacuation, evacuate early. It reduces the stress on you and your family from traffic. If an evacuation becomes mandatory, know your evacuation routes and have a plan in place on how to reach them if they become congested. Don’t forget to already have a planned place to evacuate to, and contact them ahead of time.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident in preparing for when a hurricane is approaching your area. Remember: It is never too early to prepare!

Fukushima Nuclear Facility: What About Food Safety?

Damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima facility resulted in elevated radiation levels near the power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Most recently, questions from the United States have focused on the safety of food imported from Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  have answered the call for information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) have also issued food safety statements.

 

A few answers from the FDA

What food products come to the US from Japan?

Foods imported from Japan make up less than 4 percent of foods imported from all sources. The most common food products imported from Japan include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables. Dairy products make up only one-tenth of one percent of all FDA-regulated products imported from Japan.

Is there any reason for concern about radiation from these products when they are imported into the US?

There are no concerns for products that were already in transit when the explosion occurred at the reactor. Right now, due to the damage to the Japanese infrastructure, FDA believes export activity is severely limited. FDA is monitoring all import records for Japan to determine when importation will resume.

How does the FDA protect the US food supply?

There are more than 900 investigators and 450 analysts in FDA’s Foods program who conduct inspections and

An FDA micorbiologist mixes seafood samples with an enrichment broth to test for microorganisms
FDA microbiologist

 collect and analyze product samples. The FDA oversees the importation of regulated products, including food and animal feed, among other responsibilities. The Agency carries out targeted (those that may pose a significant public health threat) risk-based analyses of imports at points of entry. Although FDA doesn’t physically inspect every product, the Agency electronically screens 100 percent of imported food products before they reach our borders.

What are the current procedures for measuring radiation contamination in food?

FDA has procedures and laboratory techniques for measuring radionuclide levels in food, and can also use the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). FERN integrates the nation’s food-testing laboratories at the local, state and federal levels into a network that is able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical or radiological contamination of food. FDA is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to share resources and techniques for measuring contamination. FDA and other domestic regulatory labs have validated analytical methods to detect radiological contamination in food.

How will the radiation affect fish and seafood that have not yet been fished or harvested?

The quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean is great enough to rapidly and effectively dilute radioactive material, so fish and seafood are likely to be unaffected. However, FDA is taking all steps to evaluate and measure any contamination in fish presented for import into the US.

Related EDEN page: Nuclear Release