Category: Elderly and Disasters


NOAA Archives

NOAA Archives

The July issue of Chicago Magazine serves as the inspiration for today’s post on killer heat. It features a recap, told in the words of residents, first responders, morgue workers and politicians of the July 1995 heatwave in the City of Chicago…twenty years ago next week. I recommend it.

Heat remains consistently the deadliest natural disaster in most years in the United States. The National Weather Service estimates that about 175 people die of heat related causes during an average year. Some years are much worse. The official total of dead attributed to the 1995 event in Chicago stands at 739. Officials argued about which deaths belonged in the count at the time and continue to do so today, but in any event the extent of the disaster cannot be denied.

On Wednesday, July 12, 1995, the temperature in Chicago reached 95-degrees. Certainly not uncommon. But on Thursday the 13th, the high was 104 at O’Hare Airport and 106 at the more urban Midway Airport. To compound the stress, the dewpoint at times exceeded 80-degrees which is rare. That would make the heat index between 120 and 130-degrees.

chi-95heatbody20120706072407

Chicago Tribune

By Friday, July 14, with a high of 102, paramedics and police officers knew there was a major problem. The number of fatalities rose to the point that the system was overwhelmed. Refrigerated trucks were brought to the morgue and mortuary students worked non-stop for two days assisting the morgue staff in handling the bodies of victims.

 

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Chicago Tribune

The urban heat island effect was in full operation. Buildings and pavement held the heat at night, especially in the humid air so there was no relief. Many of the victims were elderly, young and those with existing medical issues. The situation was especially dire in poorer neighborhoods where residents either had no fans or air conditioners or were reluctant to use them given the cost of electricity. In addition, some victims were fearful for their safety and kept windows closed and locked. One of the city’s major hospitals lacked air conditioning in most of the building even in 1995! Surgical staffs were rotated frequently.

Since the effects of extreme heat tend to be cumulative, people continued to succumb for days after the heat began to subside on Saturday when the high was “only” 98.

heat_1The Chicago Heatwave of 1995 was a well-documented event, but similar heatwaves are common. Just this past week much of Western Europe had unusually high temperatures and in June perhaps as many as 1,500 people died of the heat in Pakistan. In May of 2015, 2,500 people died in a heatwave in India.

 

The National Weather Service has a number of safety tips, including:
Avoid the Heat. Stay indoors and in air conditioning as much as possible
Check on neighbors and the elderly.
Wear loose fitting clothing. Light colors reflect heat and sun.
Drink plenty of water and natural juices. The body loses water faster than it can absorb it. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Avoid large meals. Eat smaller portions and more frequently.
NEVER leave children or pets in a vehicle even for a few minutes.

In addition, the weather service has a heatwave brochure available for download.


-- NOAA

— NOAA

For the past several days the media has been showing images of a smoke plume reaching from wildfires in Saskatchewan  across the Midwest and farther south.   From the ground the smoke appears as a haze high in the sky and may filter the sun.   Sunrises and sunsets in the areas where there is smoke in the atmosphere have been more colorful than usual.

While such events occur fairly frequently, this one has garnered additional attention because of the vast area that is reporting at least some smoke.  It is expected the area will shift to the east as the weather pattern changes over the holiday weekend.

IMG_1097Here’s what the sky looked like in central Illinois at about 11AM on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.  The darker parts of the image are clouds, put the sun is seen filtered in part by the smokey haze.

At the current time most of the smoke is high in the atmosphere and is not likely to be able to be smelled nor is it a particular threat to those with breathing difficulties.   However, the situation is different in parts of Alaska where a Dense Smoke Advisory has been issued near some wildfires. There people have been cautioned not only about limited visibility but the possibility of health impacts.

Nearly all of the wildfires have been caused by lightning.

As we approach the July 4th holiday, please keep those fireworks under control and don’t contribute to any new wildfires.


From time to time on Weather Wednesday we will step away from purely meteorological topics to address preparedness. This week we’ll discuss one of the most basic preparedness items, a personal or family Go Kit.

A Go Kit should be assembled and customized according to individual needs following some general guidelines from FEMA. Be sure to look under the tabs for additional suggested items.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600Let’s look at some of the items which should be included:

Water, one gallon per person per day for three days for drinking and sanitation. For long term storage the crystal clear containers hold up better, but water and food stocks should be rotated out regularly.

Food, a three day supply of non-perishable food. If using canned food, be sure to include a can opener. Specialty meals designed for use by campers are also a good option. Check preparation instructions to be sure you have all of the necessary equipment.

Battery powered, hand cranked and/or solar powered radio capable of receiving NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio and standard broadcast. Carry extra batteries.

Flashlight and extra batteries. Batteries will generally last considerably longer in LED flashlights.

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 -- A Red Cross "ready to go" preparedness kit showing the bag and it's contents. Red Cross photograph

Red Cross via FEMA

First aid kit. A good basic kit will suffice unless special needs are involved.

Whistle to signal for help. A small air horn is also a good addition, but you can’t beat a whistle for convenience. It takes less volume of air to blow a whistle than to yell which can be important if one is trapped by debris. A whistle or horn also has a better chance of being heard over heavy equipment.

Dust mask.

Plastic sheet and tape if asked to shelter in place.

Local maps. Remember, familiar landmarks may be destroyed in some disasters.

Cell phone with chargers, inverters, solar power, charging packs, etc. Note, avoid using accessories such as the built in flashlight which tend to run down the battery rapidly.

Prescription medications and glasses. Setting aside medication can be problematic so work with your physician and pharmacist to see what can be done.

Cash and change. If the power is out or communications lines down, ATMs will be out of service.

Copies of insurance papers, account numbers, etc. Do keep these in a special place in the kit so you can keep track of them.

Infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc if applicable. Include a leash for your pet and count their water needs as well.

Change of clothes. Err on the side of warmth and waterproof items.

A couple of items recent experience has shown to be very valuable. Sturdy shoes or boots. Sandals and flip flops are not at all useful when walking through debris. If you have identified a shelter area in your home, you might want to keep the spare shoes/boots there.

Bicycle helmets or hard hats may also be useful if easily accessible to your shelter area.

Remember a Go kit should be able to do just that, pick up and go, should the need arise. It is important to temperate the desire to plan for all contingencies with the practical need to perhaps carry the kit for some distance. Kits are also available from retailers, but make sure to customize to your needs.


Reported this morning was the 2012-2013 Human Influenza is a pandemic, it is not a pandemic but  an epidemic in many states.  The Centers for Disease Control  (CDC) released this statement late last week explaining why they believe the influenza is so severe this year:

“One factor that may indicate increased severity this season is that the predominant circulating type of influenza virus is influenza A (H3N2) viruses, which account for about 76 percent of the viruses reported. Bresee explains “typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will have to see how the season plays out.”

So far this season, most (91%) of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed at CDC are like the viruses included in the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine. The match between the vaccine virus and circulating viruses is one factor that impacts how well the vaccine works. But Bresee cautions that other factors are involved.

“While influenza vaccination offers the best protection we have against influenza, it’s still possible that some people may become ill despite being vaccinated,” says Bresee. “Health care providers and the public should remember that influenza antiviral medications are a second line of defense against influenza.” (For more information about why people may become sick with influenza after vaccination, see 2012-2013 season Questions and Answers.)”

The CDC recommends three steps to prevent the flu and they are, vaccination, take everyday preventive actions, and if prescribed by your doctor take flu antivirals.  For more detailed information see CDC link on these three steps.

 

Kim Cassel


CDC continues to report cases of West Nile Virus, even this late in the season.  Forty-eight states have reported infection in birds, people and/or mosquitoes.  As of December 11, 2012, a  total of 5,387 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 243 deaths, have been reported to CDC.  About half the cases were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and half were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 5,387 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the second week in December since 2003. Eighty percent of the cases have been reported from 13 states (Texas, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, South Dakota, Michigan, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, and New York) and a third of all cases have been reported from Texas.

In addition to case numbers it is also important to look at Incidence Rate or cases per 100,000 people.  Note a number of the states listed above which contributed to 80% of the cases had a low incidence rate such as New York and Ohio and other states such as South and North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Illinois have high case numbers and high incidence rates.

WNV Neuroinvasive Disease as of 11 Dec 2012
2012 Population NID cases Incidence (cases per 100,000 population)
South Dakota 824,082 62 7.5
North Dakota 683,932 39 5.7
Mississippi 2,978,512 103 3.5
Louisiana 4,574,836 155 3.4
Texas 25,674,681 785 3.1
Oklahoma 3,791,508 101 2.7
Nebraska 1,842,641 40 2.2
Arkansas 2,937,979 44 1.5
Illinois 12,869,257 184 1.4
Michigan 9,876,187 138 1.4
Arizona 6,482,505 82 1.3
Colorado 5,116,796 62 1.2
New Mexico 2,082,224 24 1.2
District of Columbia 617,996 6 1.0
United States 311,591,917 2734 0.9
California 37,691,912 278 0.7
Indiana 6,516,922 45 0.7
Alabama 4,802,740 33 0.7
Wisconsin 5,711,767 39 0.7
Kansas 2,871,238 19 0.7
Ohio 11,544,951 76 0.7
Minnesota 5,344,861 34 0.6
Wyoming 568,158 3 0.5
Georgia 9,815,210 42 0.4
South Carolina 4,679,230 20 0.4
Maryland 5,828,289 24 0.4
Iowa 3,062,309 11 0.4
Massachusetts 6,587,536 23 0.3
Connecticut 3,580,709 12 0.3
Idaho 1,584,985 5 0.3
New York 19,465,197 60 0.3
Tennessee 6,403,353 18 0.3
West Virginia 1,855,364 5 0.3
Missouri 6,010,688 16 0.3
New Jersey 8,821,155 22 0.2
Virginia 8,096,604 20 0.2
Florida 19,057,542 46 0.2
Delaware 907,135 2 0.2
Pennsylvania 12,742,886 28 0.2
Rhode Island 1,051,302 2 0.2
Nevada 2,723,322 5 0.2
Vermont 626,431 1 0.2
Utah 2,817,222 3 0.1
Montana 998,199 1 0.1
Kentucky 4,369,356 4 0.1
New Hampshire 1,318,194 1 0.1
Maine 1,328,188 1 0.1
North Carolina 9,656,401 6 0.1
Washington 6,830,038 4 0.1
Alaska 722,718 0 0.0
Hawaii 1,374,810 0 0.0
Oregon 3,871,859 0 0.0

Table provided by SD DOH, Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist

Kim Cassel

 


The Centers for Disease Control have a link with information on health issues related to the drought.  Information included on this web page is water, air quality, food and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, recreational risks, infectious disease, chronic disease, and diseases transmitted by animals and insects.

Kim Cassel


Don’t Forget the Doggie!

This week’s post comes to you from my remote location in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. I’ve had meetings here all week; which means I have been away from my family all week. I sadly had to leave my husband and children at home. Not let me clarify, the children in our household are fur-babies.

Holden, the chocolate lab, and Arie, the pug

Please meet, Holden the slightly chubby overly-lovable, chocolate lab and Arie the often completely wild and insane rambunctious, pug. I know that I am the same as many other animal owners when I say that my pets are part of my family.

The likelihood that you and your animals will survive emergencies or disasters such as a fire, earthquake, flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning.

If possible, if an emergencies or disasters force you to evacuate your home, take your pets with you. However, if you are going to a public shelter, understand that animals may not be allowed inside. For example, Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets due to health and safety regulations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are the only exception. Make plans for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.

Be prepared for an emergency or disaster. Assemble animal emergency supply kits and develop a pet-care plan that will work whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location. Keep in mind that what is best for you is typically best for your animals. Create kits for each pet for at least three days, and store the supplies in a pet carrier that’s ready to go.

Kits should include:

  • Pet identification securely attached and current photos of your pets in case they get lost
  • Medications, first-aid kit and veterinary records (stored in a waterproof container)
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals cannot escape
  • Three days’ food supply (one ounce/per pound each day), potable water, bowls, can opener if canned food
  • Pet towel or blanket; pet beds and toys if easily transportable
  • Plastic bags for waste
  • Cat litter/pan
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets

In the event of evacuation, do not leave pets behind. However, if it’s impossible to take them, make sure plenty of dry food and water are available.

For more information look at the EDEN Family Preparedness Course or FEMA’s Information for Pet Owners page.


A Recipe for Disaster?

If you were to lose power in your home for three days, what would you eat? Food from the refrigerator? No longer good. Food from the freezer? Not an option either. Microwave something? No power, remember.

Maybe you should start thinking now about what you could cook from the ingredients you have in your disaster readiness kit or your kitchen pantry right this moment.

Take a look around, what do you have? You can heat that can of ravioli up of a fire, same for the baked beans and cans of soup. But don’t stop there, think harder. What can you create from these items?

Well, I’ll be honest; my go-to comfort food is chicken pot pie, it’s perfect for sad days, cold days, and really ANY day. And yes, I know there are no two people that make it exactly alike, but I have to say my mother’s recipe is pretty fantastic. However, if my power is knocked out for several days on end I’m not going to be able to use those chicken breasts in the fridge or make pie crust from scratch like the recipe says. I will  be able to make my disaster ready chicken pot pie though. Check out how using canned ingredients can create relatively the same meal.

Disaster Ready Chicken Pot Pie

1 can – Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can – Mixed Vegetables
1 can – Chicken Meat
1 Pie Crust Mix from a box
Water
Salt
Pepper

Mix the pie crust according to instructions. Heat over an open flame. Break canned chicken up with a fork. Mix with vegetables (don’t drain) and soup. Season to taste. Fill pie crust with mixture and heat until warm.

Now that sounds more like a family meal. Be creative, but plan ahead. When making your disaster readiness kit plan meals ahead that will feed your whole family. Canned ingredients may seem simple, but they can make some of the best meals.

What did you find when you looked in your fridge? Share with us some of your disaster ready meal ideas.


We are rolling out something new this week, Family Preparedness Fridays. Each Friday we will highlight a way you can get your family prepared for a disaster.

What better way to help get the family prepared for the next disaster than to get the kids involved. Have the kids help complete the word search below, then use the word list as a starting point for collecting items for your family’s disaster preparedness kit. Most of these items can be found around the house, so grab a box or tote and let the family start getting prepared!

GET A KIT!

To complete this puzzle online click here. For a printable PDF click here.

More resources on Family Preparedness are available on the EDEN website by clicking here.