Archive: Month: May 2015

Tropical Storm Ana earlier this month aside, June 1st marks the beginning of the “official” Atlantic Hurricane season. So what can we expect this year? Exact predictions are always iffy, but noted expert Dr. William Gray and his colleague Philip Klotzbach, both of Colorado State University, predict 7 named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. If true, this would be one of the quietest hurricane seasons in the last 60-years. The long term average is for 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Some recent years have seen in excess of 20 named storms.



Why the smaller numbers? One factor is the development of a strong El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Historically, El Nino years have fewer hurricanes along with other effects. The Weather Channel has created a nice page and video explaining this.

It is extremely important to note, however, that it only takes one major landfalling hurricane to cause vast damage and many casualties. Just because the long range hurricane forecast seems to be encouraging, we’re not out of the woods.

Hurricane-Sandy-stormsurgediagramIn preparation for the 2015 hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center is unveiling a new system of communicating storm surge threats and vulnerabilities. As has been seen over and over, some of the most devastating damage from hurricanes is not always from strong winds but from storm surge, the wall of water that is pushed out in advance of the center of the hurricane.

20121106-hurricane-sandy-new-jersey-shore.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scale Hurricane Sandy is one of the more recent demonstrations of this mighty force.

This week, May 24-30, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week.  For those of you who have a role educating others about hurricanes here’s a link to FEMA’s toolkit.   And here is material from the National Hurricane Center/NOAA.



National Dam Safety Awareness Day is May 31st. That date is the anniversary of the failure of the South Fork Dam which resulted in the infamous Johnstown (PA) flood. More than 2,200 lives were lost in what is considered the worst dam failure in the history of the United States according to FEMA.


Missouri Institute of Science and Technology

The National Dam Safety Program is led by FEMA and a partnership of states, federal agencies and other stakeholders. Dams are part of an aging infrastructure and continued attention is vital in averting future catastrophic failures.

Posted on May 18th, 2015 in Meet a Delegate Monday

National Program Leader Beverly SamuelWe recently interviewed Beverly Samuel, NIFA liaison to EDEN. Beverly is National Program Leader, Housing & Community Living in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences of USDA NIFA.

Beverly, how did you become involved with EDEN?

I was assigned to work with EDEN as a result of becoming the National Program Leader at USDA NIFA for Housing & Community Living.  Disaster Education is a part of the program portfolio and becoming the Liaison was a natural alliance.  Housing and Community Living programs identify issues, develop solutions, and share promising practices to promote sustainable housing initiatives, safe and affordable housing, air and water quality, energy efficiency, and disaster education.

You’re a National Program Leader (NPL), Housing & Community Living in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences of USDA NIFA.  What do you do?  

I provide international and national leadership in advancing research, extension, and education. I execute leadership networking through participation on federal task forces including the President’s Taskforce on Environmental Health Risks to Children, Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality, Federal Healthy Homes Work Group, and the Federal Radon Action Taskforce.  Collaboration on these taskforces has resulted in developing policy and outreach information that have national impact. I also serve on the Coalition of Organizations for Disaster Education (CODE) and a Federal Emergency Management Agency work group to collaborate around disaster preparedness. I am Chair of the State Energy Extension Partnership (SEEP) and have worked with a team to facilitate connections between USDA NIFA, U.S. Department of Energy and USDA Rural Development through a MOU. The purpose is to promote joint collaboration between State Energy Offices and Cooperative Extension for acceleration of adoption of energy efficiency technology. I am the NIFA Liaison to University of Connecticut for their Plan of Work and Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results for Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station. I Co-Lead a NIFA Continuous Process Improvement project to streamline the grant award grant process, which is being piloted and will be implemented in FY16.  I provided national leadership in working with Montana State University (MSU) on development of the Master Family & Consumer Sciences Volunteer program, which modeled after the Master Gardeners Program.  I also serve as the NIFA liaison to Energy Specialist, Housing Specialist and EDEN. I manage the Smith Lever Special Needs Grants and secure funding through Interagency Agreements to support for the Healthy Homes Partnership that currently involves eight states in a pilot project. I coordinate with Purdue University for EDEN funding through a Cooperative Agreement for the Food & Agriculture Defense Initiative funding.  I manage capacity projects, which include a number of Multi-State Research Projects. I serve as a liaison to several eXtension Community of Practices. Finally, I work with Visiting Scholars to address critical emerging issues and am currently working with a team on establishing an EDEN model in the Philippines. Most importantly, my work is cross cutting and addresses a variety of critical issues facing families and communities.

What has been your favorite part of being the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Liaison to EDEN?

My favorite part of being the Liaison to EDEN has been visiting sites to see the examples of grant project implementation and attending workshops that highlight the projects. Also, when the Office of Secretary staff traveled to North Dakota recently, I was able to highlight examples of Special Needs grant projects, National EDEN Issue Leaders: Flooding Educational Support led by Ken Hellevang and the Winter Storm App led by Becky Koch.  It is very rewarding to highlight the work that EDEN delegates do.  It is also very rewarding to hear from partners the difference that the funding has made in their communities. Last, I enjoy reading the Final Technical Reports from all of the grant projects. 

In addition to your other work, you are responsible for the Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program.  What advice do you have for delegates interested in applying for 2015 funding?

My advice to delegates interested in applying for this funding is to review the RFA thoroughly and follow closely the suggested guidelines for what should be included in the proposal.  A panel of experts that include EDEN delegates review the grants and make the recommendation for funding.  Matching funding is required from the applicant institution at 100%, even if there is collaboration with others.  There is no exception for this match requirement.   This funding is limited to 1862 land-grant universities, but collaboration may occur with 1890 (Historically Black Colleges), 1994 (Tribal Colleges), and/or Hispanic Serving Institutions.  Projects that have the ability to be scaled up nationally or have a multi-state regional scale are more favorable.  Also, applicants should allow plenty of time for developing the application, including ample time for submitting the application.

From your national perspective, what advice in general do you have for EDEN delegates?

The following are tips that I have for EDEN delegates:

  • Attend the National EDEN Annual Conference. The networking and collaboration that results is invaluable. 
  • Collaborate to make a difference in your state/regionally/and nationally.
  • Maintain your State EDEN website with up-to-date information.
  • Apply for USDA NIFA Smith Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants.
  • Seek other funding opportunities to expand or enhance the work in your state.

It’s been an eventful week on the weather front, so let’s highlight a few points.


-Damage near Van, TX — KSFY

What started out as a very quiet first quarter of the year as regards the number of tornadoes has become much more active since mid-April. There have been several widespread, damaging and deadly outbreaks, especially over the last ten days or so.

The organization U.S. Tornadoes has begun to compile a rolling list of the highest incidence of tornadoes in 2015. One can see that May is headed toward reversing the early year trend of below normal activity.

storm-thumb-051015In addition, the storms over the past weekend (May 9 and 10) included extremely high rainfall rates in some areas which led to flash flooding and necessitated swift water rescues. Some of the rescues were broadcast live by television stations in Dallas and retransmitted to the entire country via The Weather Channel.



And if that wasn’t enough, a late season snowstorm on the same weekend buried parts of the Rocky Mountains into the Dakotas. The heavy, wet snow damaged buildings and had to be shoveled out of Coors Field before the Colorado Rockies could host their Sunday afternoon game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

tropical-storm-anaAnd to top it all off, Tropical Storm Ana, brought gusty winds and copious amounts of rain to the Southeast.

The Climate Prediction Center recently issued its 90-day outlook for temperature and precipitation for the U.S. It also updated the drought monitor tool.

off01_tempIn general the outlook calls for the next three months to feature above normal temperatures in the western third of the country and in the far southeastern states. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will also be warmer than usual. Below normal temperatures are confined to much of Texas and areas of adjoining states. Most of the country will see an equal chance for above or below normal temperatures.


off01_prcpMuch of the nation may experience above normal precipitation from the southeast through the gulf states to the western plains and Rockies along with a good portion of Alaska. The above normal rainfall may bring drought relief to Texas and the four corners area. The Great Lakes states will see below normal precipitation and the potential of a developing drought. Lake levels and fire danger may be impacted.


drought 90The drought monitor shows little change in the near term for the hardest hit areas of the west, parts of Texas, and parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the 90 day period of the outlook, the drought may ease in Texas and areas northwest of there. However, drought conditions may expand in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, little or no relief is seen for California.  Just this week water use restrictions of from 8% to 36% were enacted for some municipalities.

Late breaking news.  Tornadoes in Germany!

There was a fairly broad outbreak of severe weather including tornadoes in Germany on Tuesday, May 5.  Here’s coverage from the British newspaper, The Guardian.

Posted on May 4th, 2015 in Meet a Delegate Monday

We recently interviewed Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, EDEN delegate from North Dakota State University. Ken is an extension engineer, professor, and Fellow, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

Dr. Kenneth HellevangKen, how did you get involved with EDEN?

I had been working with preparation for and recovering from flooding in North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota with a primary focus on the engineering aspects and mold. In the early development of eXtension, EDEN as a Community of Practice identified flooding as their initial topic for eXtension. EDEN identified and recruited a team to development educational material on flooding. I agreed to serve as chair of the team which included Carol Lehtola, the University of Florida; Shirley Niemeyer, University of Nebraska – Lincoln; and Joe Ponessa, Rutgers University. Claudette Reichel, Louisiana, was initially recruited to be on the team, but had to focus on local needs after hurricane Katrina.

What is your disaster preparedness role in North Dakota?

I am part of an informal disaster education team led by Becky Koch, North Dakota EDEN Point Of Contact. Our team has developed a disaster preparedness recommended practice document for each extension office. Unfortunately, with disaster education only an extremely minor aspect of every team member’s responsibility, a limited amount is done related to disaster preparedness and most of our effort is related to preparation for imminent disasters or in response to disasters.

How well does that fit with your other Extension responsibilities?

My Extension responsibilities are about 70% on grain drying and storage, about 25% related to structures including both farmstead and residential structures, and about 5% related to energy and the bio-industry. Disaster education is a minor aspect of the structures part of my responsibility. It fits, but due to the multitude of other responsibilities, it is only a focus area due to a disaster.

What advice to you have for new EDEN delegates?

I encourage them to become involved, network and volunteer for projects. The relationships that are developed through involvement become the foundation for professional growth and creating a group of people who you feel comfortable contacting.

Any final comments for our readers?

Flooding occurs somewhere every year and if we are going to provide people with the resources they need, we need to continually be updating the material. Unfortunately, there seems to be a small group of people who have developed expertise related to disasters and they are involved in whatever is the most critical disaster at the time. I encourage people who have an interest to develop a specialist level of expertise and become involved with the national need to keep resources updated and a serve as resource that Extension staff across the country can contact as they are facing their local disasters.