Severe Weather Awareness – Flooding Dangers

Flash Floods and Flood Safety tips

Turn Around Dont Drown

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drowning, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don’t Drown. You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water.

Floods and flash floods are the number one cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms in the United States, averaging 106 deaths per year.

Flooding can occur anytime and anywhere. Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock you off your feet. A depth of two feet will float most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles. While most floods cannot be prevented…there are simple steps you can take to protect your life and property.

If flooding occurs…

  • Move to higher ground immediately and stay away from flood prone areas.
  • Do not allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers often lie beneath the water.
  • Flooded roads can have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Never drive on a flooded road.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams or washes… particularly when threatening weather conditions exist.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

Other Safety Tips for Flooding hazards conditions: Image is example of what people faced with flooding in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina flooding.

Typical questions about flooding:

Q: How do I know how severe a flood will be?

Once a river reaches flood stage, the flood severity categories used by the NWS include minor flooding, moderate flooding, and major flooding. Each category has a definition based on property damage and public threat.

  • Minor Flooding – minimal or no property damage, but possibly some public threat or inconvenience
  • Moderate Flooding – some inundation of structures and roads near streams. Some evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations are necessary.
  • Major Flooding – extensive inundation of structures and roads. Significant evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.

The impacts of a floods vary locally. For each NWS river forecast location, flood stage and the stage associated with each of the NWS flood severity categories are established in cooperation with local public officials. Increasing river levels above flood stage constitute minor, moderate, and major flooding. Impacts vary from one river location to another because a certain river stage (height) in one location may have an entirely different impact than the same level above flood stage at another location.

Q: What’s the difference between a flood and flash flood?

A flood occurs when prolonged rainfall over several days, intense rainfall over a short period of time, or an ice or debris jam causes a river or stream to overflow and flood the surrounding area. Melting snow can combine with rain in the winter and early spring; severe thunderstorms can bring heavy rain in the spring and summer; or tropical cyclones can bring intense rainfall to the coastal and inland states in the summer and fall.

A flash floods occur within six hours of a rain event, or after a dam or levee failure, or following a sudden release of water held by an ice or debris jam, and flash floods can catch people unprepared. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming. So, if you live in areas prone to flash floods, plan now to protect your family and property. The use of the word flash here is synonymous with urgent.

Follow these safety rules:

  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don’t Drown
  • Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don’t Drown If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.

Most flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that move repeatedly over the same area or heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes.

These floods can develop within minutes or hours depending on the intensity and duration of the rain, the topography, soil conditions and ground cover.

Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Furthermore, flash flood-producing rains can also trigger catastrophic mud slides.

Occasionally, floating debris or ice can accumulate at a natural or man-made obstruction and restrict the flow of water. Water held back by the ice jam or debris dam can cause flooding upstream. Subsequent flash flooding can occur downstream if the obstruction should suddenly release.

Flash Floods Can Take Only a Few Minutes to a Few Hours to Develop

  • A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area.
  • A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.

Prepare a Family Disaster Plan

  • Check to see if you have insurance that covers flooding. If not, find out how to get flood insurance.
  • Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing . . .

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person
  • Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you’ll need a professional to turn them back on.)
  • Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places . . . a friend’s home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.

When a Flood WATCH Is Issued . . .

  • Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a Flood WARNING Is Issued . . .

  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for information and advice. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.

When a Flash Flood WATCH Is Issued . . .

  • Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.

When a Flash Flood WARNING Is Issued . . .

  • Or if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.
  • If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

MOST IMPORTANTLY if you come to a flooded roadway of any kind remember Saving your life and your car is as simple as choosing a different route when you see water across a roadway. So day or night, when there’s water on the road and Turn Around Dont Drown!

Information provided by National Weather Service Kerry Jones and Amarillo KVII Chief Meteorologist Steve Kersh and the CDC


Severe Weather Awareness – Lightning Dangers

Lightning Safety

Lightning is the MOST UNDERRATED weather hazard. On average, only floods kill more people. Lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or ten thousand bolts.

In the United States, lightning routinely kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes COMBINED. Tornadoes, hail, and wind gusts get the most attention, but only lightning can strike well outside the storm itself. Lightning is usually the first thunderstorm hazard to arrive and the last to leave.

Lightning is an unpredictable characteristic of a thunderstorm – no one can guarantee an individual or group absolute protection from lightning. However, knowing and following proven lightning safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death. Remember, YOU are ultimately responsible for your personal safety, and should take appropriate action when threatened by lightning.

Lightning hits the earth an estimated 100 times per second, or 8.6 million times a day. It is estimated that the U.S. alone receives as many as 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year from approximately 100,000

thunderstorms. Lightning kills or injures hundreds of people every year, mainly because the victims are not aware of the danger they face.

Lightning has fascinated and excited humans for as long as they have watched the skies. Meteorologists know the cloud conditions necessary to produce lightning, but cannot forecast the location or time of the next stroke of lightning from a storm. At any moment, there are as many as 1800 thunderstorms in progress somewhere on the Earth, and each is producing deadly lightning.

As the thunderstorm forms, it produces ice in the upper cloud. The formation of ice in a cloud is an important element in the development of lightning. Those storms that fail to produce large numbers of ice crystals may also fail to produce lightning. Strong rising and sinking motions within the cloud are important too, as they enhance collisions among cloud particles causing a separation of electrical charges. Positively charged ice crystals rise to the top of the thunderstorm and negatively charged ice particles and hailstones drop to the middle and lower parts of the storm.

As the differences in charges continue to increase, positive charges rise up taller objects such as trees, houses, and telephone poles. The charge can also move up you, causing your hair to stand on end! This is natures way final way of warning you that lightning can strike very soon near you.

The negatively charged area in the storm sends out a charge toward the ground called a step leader. It is invisible to the human eye and moves in steps towards the ground. It takes less than a second for lightning to get close to the ground, and when it does it is attracted by all of the positively charged objects causing a channel to develop. You see the electrical transfer in this channel as lightning. There may be several repeated transfers of electricity within the channel. These are observed as flickering lightning.

35 Years of Lightning Deaths & Injuries
Fatalities, injuries, and damage were compiled and published by NOAA for the years 1959-1994.

Lightning Facts

1. Location of Incident:
40% Unreported
27% Open fields & recreation areas (not golf)
14 % Under trees (not golf)
8% Water-related (boating, fishing, swimming…)
5% Golf / golf under trees

3% Heavy equipment and machinery related
2.4% Telephone related
0.7% Radio, transmitter & antenna related

2. Gender of victims:84% male; 16% female
3. Months of most incidents: June (21%), July (30%), Aug (22%)
4. Days of week of most incidents: Sun. / Wed. / Sat.
5. Time of day of most incidents: 2pm to 6pm
6. Number of victims: One (91%), two or more (9%)
7. Deaths by State, Top Five: FL, MI, TX, NY, TN
8. Injuries by State, Top Five: FL, MI, PA, NC, NY

Before Lightning Strikes…

Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder. If Thunder is heard… The Lightning is… 5 seconds after a Flash = 1 mile away 10 seconds after a Flash = 2 miles away 15 seconds after a Flash = 3 miles away 20 seconds after a Flash = 4 miles away 25 seconds after a Flash = 5 miles away 30 seconds after a Flash = 6 miles away

  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately!
  • Don’t use metal objects like fishing rods, aluminum bats and golf clubs. Golfers and Softball players are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.

The 30/30 rule

Any lightning safety plan should incorporate the 30/30 Rule. The 30/30 Rule states that people should seek shelter if the “Flash-To-Bang” delay (length of time in seconds between a lightning flash and its subsequent thunder), is 30 seconds or less, and that they remain under cover until 30 minutes after the final clap of thunder.

A 30 second lead time is necessary prior to a storm’s arrival because of the possibility of distant strikes. A 30 minute wait after the last thunder is heard is necessary because the trailing storm clouds still carry a lingering charge. This charge can and does occasionally produce lightning on the back edge of a storm, several minutes after the rain has ended.

Studies have shown most people struck by lightning are struck not at the height of a thunderstorm, but before and after the storm has peaked. This shows many people are unaware of how far lightning can strike from its parent thunderstorm. DO NOT wait for the rain to start before seeking shelter, and do not leave shelter just because the rain has ended.

When a Storm Approaches…

  • Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
  • 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 overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job!
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.

Be a Very Small Target!

If you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear “crackling noises,” you are in lightning’s electric field. If caught outside during close-in lightning, immediately remove metal objects (including baseball cap), place your feet together, duck your head, and crouch down low in baseball catcher’s stance with hands on knees

  • Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
  • Do not lie flat on the ground — this will make you a larger target!

If you feel your hair stand on end in a storm, drop into the tuck position described above immediately. This sensation means electric charges are already rushing up your body from the ground toward an electrically charged cloud. Minimize your contact with the ground to minimize your injury.

Being outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. The National Weather Service advises that when you hear thunder or see lightning to quickly move indoors or into a hard topped vehicle and remain there until well after the storm has passed.

Any location is dangerous during a lightning storm; however some areas are more dangerous than others. Some of the riskiest locations include:

  • Anywhere near the water:
    • Boating
    • Fishing
    • Swimming
    • Activities on the Beach
  • Areas near tall trees:
    • The Golf Course
    • Picnic Areas
    • Hiking Trails
    • Isolated tall trees pose the greatest danger!
  • High terrains such as hill tops and ridges
  • High places such as house roofs during construction
  • Open areas like fields

Dangerous situations can arise when big groups of people come together outdoors during a lightning storm. This includes baseball, football, soccer, and tennis games, as well as community fairs and outdoor festivals.

It is important that everyone know some outdoor and indoor safety rules.

Outdoor Safety Rules

Knowing outdoor safety rules can help save your life or that of loved ones.

When lightning approaches, get inside a completely enclosed building. Carports, open garages, storage sheds, metal sheds, and covered patios are not safe shelters.

If no enclosed building is available, get inside a hard-topped, all metal vehicle.

Get out of the water! Get off the beach and out of small boats and canoes. If caught in a boat, crouch down in the center of the boat away from metal hardware. Avoid standing in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots. Thunderstorm winds create large waves and turbulent water, so please wear a life jacket!

If you cannot reach shelter, avoid being the tallest object in the area. Do not take shelter under an isolated tree or the tallest trees in the area. If you are in the woods, find shelter under the shorter trees.

If only isolated trees are nearby, crouch on the balls of your feet. A rule of thumb to follow is to stay twice as far away from a tree as it is tall. Don’t lie on the ground.

Avoid caves or overhangs. The ground current from lightning is very strong and can jump the Gap.

Avoid leaning against vehicles and get off bicycles and motorcycles.

Indoor Safety Rules

When lightning strikes a building, house or other structure, it follows metal conductors such an electrical wiring, plumbing, and telephone lines from the structure to the ground. When this process occurs, it usually leaves the inhabitants unharmed.

Once lightning enters the home it can surge through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. It can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring as well as windows and doors. It is important to avoid these conductors during an electrical storm.

Phone use is the leading cause of lightning injuries within the home. Lightning can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wiring, especially in rural areas where other conductors are limited.

Basements should be used with caution during thunderstorms because they usually contain conductors. Avoid contact with washers and dryers since they not only have contacts with the plumbing and electrical systems, but also have an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent. Concrete floors should also be avoided as they usually contain some form of reinforcement which can easily become electrified by a nearby lightning strike. Avoid bathing during a lightning storm as the household plumbing can carry a deadly current.

Lightning Safety Tips for Inside your Home

A house or other substantial building offers the best protection from lightning. In assessing the safety provided by a particular structure, it is more important to consider what happens if the structure gets struck by lightning, rather than whether the structure will be hit by lightning. For a shelter to provide protection from lightning, it must contain a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground. These mechanisms may be on the outside of the structure, may be contained within the walls of the structure, or may be a combination of the two. On the outside, lightning can travel along the outer shell of the building or may follow metal gutters and downspouts to the ground. Inside a structure, lightning can follow conductors such as the electrical wiring, plumbing, and telephone lines to the ground.

Avoid Unsafe Shelters!

Unless specifically designed to be lightning safe, small structures do little, if anything, to protect occupants from lightning. Many small open shelters on athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadside picnic areas, schoolyards and elsewhere are designed to protect people from rain and sun, but not lightning. A shelter that does not contain plumbing or wiring throughout, or some other mechanism for grounding from the roof to ground is not safe. Small wooden, vinyl, or metal sheds offer little or no protection from lightning and should be avoided during thunderstorms.

How Lightning Enters a House or Building

There are three main ways lightning enters homes and buildings: (1) a direct strike, (2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and (3) through the ground. Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Stay Safe While Inside

Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Lightning can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas. Stay away from windows and doors as these can provide the path for a direct strike to enter a home. Do not lie on the concrete floor of a garage as it likely contains a wire mesh. In general, basements are a safe place to go during thunderstorms. However, there are some things to keep in mind. Avoid contact with concrete walls which may contain metal reinforcing bars. Avoid washers and dryers since they not only have contacts with the plumbing and electrical systems, but also contain an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent.

Remember Your Pets

You may want to consider the safety of your family pets during thunderstorms. Dog houses are not lightning-safe. Dogs that are chained to trees or chained to wire runners can easily fall victim to a lightning strike.

Protect Your Personal Property

Lightning also causes significant damage to personal property each year. In addition to direct strikes, lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will NOT protect equipment from a lightning strike. To the extent possible, unplug any appliances or electronic equipment from all conductors well before a thunderstorm threatens. This includes not only the electrical system, but also the reception system. If you plan to be away from your home when thunderstorms are possible, be sure to unplug unneeded equipment before you leave.

Summary of Lightning Safety Tips for Inside the Home

· Avoid contact with corded phones

· Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.

· Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.

· Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

· Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

If someone is struck by lightning…

  • People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number.
  • The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.

Learn First Aid and CPR

  • Take a first aid and CPR course. Next class is schedule for April 22 in the Learning Center!

Information provided by the National Weather Service Kerry Jones, KVII Chief Meteorologist Steve Kersh and American Red Cross.


Severe Weather Preparedness Week- Dust Storms

Severe Weather Awareness Week

March 3-9

DUST STORM SAFETY

With high winds yesterday throughout our area and still drought conditions make it ideal for blowing sand and dirt. The visibility is also drastically reduced with the blowing dust. Sand Storms are among nature’s most violent and unpredictable phenomena. High winds lift dirt particles or, in the case of sandstorms, sand, into the air, unleashing a turbulent, suffocating cloud of particulates and reducing visibility to almost nothing in a matter of seconds. Nearly all dust storms are capable of causing property damage, injuries, and deaths, and while they are most commonly associated with the Sahara and Gobi desert regions, they can occur in any arid or semi-arid climate. No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to know what to do if you see a wall of sand racing toward you.

Dust storms often occur with strong outflow from thunderstorms. The strong outflow is produced when a thunderstorm downburst, which occurs when the core of a thunderstorm collapses, suddenly forces air and water toward the ground. The fast-moving air has nowhere to go, but spread out in all directions.

MOTORIST BEWARE!

A dust storm usually arrives suddenly in the form of an advancing wall of dust and debris which may be miles long and several thousand feet high. They strike with little warning, making driving conditions hazardous. Blinding, choking dust can quickly reduce visibility, causing accidents that may involve chain collisions, creating massive pileups. Dust storms usually last only a few minutes, but the actions a motorist takes during the storm may be the most important of his or her life.

DUST STORM SAFETY TIPS

  • If dense dust is observed blowing across or approaching a roadway, pull your vehicle off the pavement as far as possible, stop, turn off lights, set the emergency brake, take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the tail lights are not illuminated.
  • Don’t enter the dust storm area if you can avoid it.
  • If you can’t pull off the roadway, proceed at a speed suitable for visibility, turn on lights and sound horn occasionally. Use the painted center line to help guide you. Look for a safe place to pull off the roadway.
  • Never stop on the traveled portion of the roadway.

LIGHTS OUT!

In the past, motorists driving in dust storms have pulled off the roadway, leaving lights on. Vehicles approaching from the rear and using the advance car’s lights as a guide have inadvertently left the roadway and in some instances collided with the parked vehicle. Make sure all of your lights are off when you park off the roadway.

HEED WARNINGS

During threatening weather listen to commercial radio or television or NOAA Weather Radio for Dust Storm Warnings. A Dust Storm (or Sand Storm) Warning means: Visibility of 1/2 mile or less due to blowing dust or sand, and wind speeds of 30 miles an hour or more.

Heed dust storm warnings. Dust storms are most likely to occur on hot summer days under certain atmospheric conditions, so meteorologists can frequently predict the possibility of these storms. Tune in to local TV or radio broadcasts before traveling in hot, dry conditions, and consider rerouting or delaying your trip if dust storms are predicted. Roadside signs may also be available to warn you of dust storm danger.

Be prepared. If you are in a storm-prone area, carry a mask designed to filter out small particulates, and bring airtight goggles to protect your eyes. It’s also wise to carry a supply of water in case you are stuck in a storm. Dust storms are usually accompanied by high temperatures, and you can quickly become dehydrated in the dry heat and high winds. Wear or carry clothing that covers your body to protect you from the sandblasting, and to keep you warm in case of the frigid winds of a winter dust storm, which can quickly lead to hypothermia.

Outrun the storm. If you see a dust storm from some distance, and you are in a vehicle or have access to one, you may be able to outrun it or detour around it. Some dust storms can travel at more than 75 miles per hour, but they frequently travel much slower. Trying to outrun a storm, however, is not advisable if you have to put yourself at risk by traveling at high speeds. If the storm is catching up with you, it’s best to stop and prepare for it. Once consumed by the storm, your visibility can potentially be reduced to zero in a matter of seconds.

Pull over. If you’re in transit and visibility drops to less than 300 feet, pull off the road (exit the freeway if possible), set your parking brake, turn off your headlights, and make sure brake lights and turn signals are also off. In many cases, if your exterior lights are on, other drivers will use the taillights of the person in front of them as a guide to help navigate the road ahead of them. If you are pulled off the road and are sitting there with your lights on, unbelievably, someone might think they can follow you and run right off the road or even collide with you! Turning your headlights off while stationed off the road, will reduce the possibility of a rear-end collision. If you are unable to safely pull off the road, keep your headlights on, turn on your hazard lights, slow down, and proceed with caution, sounding your horn periodically. Use the highway’s centerline to guide you if you can’t see in front of you. Pull over at the nearest safe spot.

Take cover and stay put. Do not attempt to move about in a blinding storm, as you will not be able to see potential hazards in your path.

If you’re in a house or sturdy structure, stay inside. If you can quickly reach such shelter before a dust storm reaches you, get there as quickly as possible. Close all windows and doors, and wait out the storm.

If you’re in a vehicle, roll up the windows and turn off vents that bring outside air in.

If you are stuck outside, seek out a large rock or other landform to protect you at least partially.

Get to high ground, since the densest concentration of sand is bouncing close to the ground, but only if (1) you can find a safe, solid, high point, (2) the storm is not accompanied by lightning and (3) there is no danger of being struck by heavier flying debris.

Do not lie in a ditch, as flash flooding may occur even if no rain is falling where you are. In the actual dust cloud, rain generally dries up before it reaches the ground, but it may be raining nearby, and ditches, arroyos, and other low-lying areas can quickly flood.

If you have a camel, have it sit down and press yourself against its leeward side. Camels are well adapted to surviving in dust storms.

If you’re in sand dunes, do not seek shelter right on the leeward side of the dune. The high winds can pick up huge amounts of sand very quickly, and you could find yourself being buried in sand.

Wear a mask. If you have a respirator or mask designed to filter out small particulates, put it on immediately. If you don’t have a mask, wrap a bandanna or some other piece of cloth around your nose and mouth. Moisten it a bit if you have enough water. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the inside of your nostrils to prevent drying of your mucous membranes.

Protect your eyes. Eyeglasses offer minimal protection from blowing dust or sand, but airtight goggles are better. If you don’t have goggles, wrap a piece of cloth tightly around your head to protect your eyes and ears.

Shield yourself from flying objects. Cover as much of your body as possible to protect yourself from flying sand. In addition, while wind-propelled sand can hurt, a dust storm’s high winds can also carry heavier (and hence more dangerous) objects. If you find yourself without shelter, try to stay low to the ground and protect your head with your arms, a backpack, or a pillow.

Safety Tips: Driving In A Dust Storm

Dust storms are common in our area and usually occur between May and September. The most intense storms occur during the late summer months known as monsoon.

Dust storms can create dangerous, sometimes even deadly driving conditions and sometimes reduce visibility to zero. The area between Tucson and Phoenix is noted for being the only place in the United States to experience the “haboob,” a raging dust storm that travels across the desert at 50 to 60 mph.

AAA says drivers need to be especially careful when they get behind the wheel of a car and practice safe driving habits so they don’t find themselves “at one” with a large tree or worse, another vehicle.

If you run into a severe dust storm, reduce the speed of your vehicle immediately and drive carefully off the highway. After you are off the paved portion of the roadway, turn off your vehicle’s lights to ensure other cars do not follow you off the road and hit your vehicle. Wait until the dust storm had passed before getting back on the highway. If you are walking or riding your bike, get inside quickly or seek shelter.

If a dust storm strikes, use the same rules you would for driving in fog. Do not stop on the road, because cars coming behind you will not see you in time to stop. Instead, slow down and pull to the side of the road, turn off all lights and wait until it’s safe to resume driving. If traffic prevents you from pulling off the road, look down at the white lines on the pavement to keep the car pointing in the right direction, and drive very slowly, until the dust passes, which should only take a few minutes

Here are some other tips to help drivers safely maneuver through the Valley during a monsoon storm:

· Reduce speed and turn on driving lights

· Pull off the roadway

After you are completely off the traveled portion of the roadway:

· Turn off driving lights

· Keep your car radio on

· If you are on the freeway, leave the freeway at an exit ramp, if possible.

· Wait until visibility is at least 300 feet before re-entering the roadway.

· Heavy rain may follow the dust storm.

 

Ken Oswald Safety and Security Manager for Plateau

keno@plateautel.com


Getting off OSHA’s “Severe Violator” List

Whoever said “there’s no such thing as bad publicity!” couldn’t have known about OSHA’s Severe Violator list. There are a lot of lists you want to get on (Best Company to work for, Safest Company in the NW,…) but this is one list you definitely do not want to be put on and, if you do end up on it, you want to get off it ASAP.

To respond to inquiries about how to get removed for the list, OSHA published a memorandum for regional administrators about “Removal Criteria for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program” (SVEP).

To date some “288 inspections have beem designated as SVEP inspections“.

From the memorandum:

“After reviewing the policy, DEP determined that an employer may be removed from the SVEP after a period of three years from the date of final disposition of the SVEP inspection citation items. Final disposition may occur through failure to contest, settlement agreement, Review Commission final order, or court of appeals decision. Employers must have abated all SVEPrelated hazards affirmed as violations, paid all final penalties, abided by and completed all settlement provisions, and not received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.”

Read the full memorandum here.