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Thunderstorms

What It Is

Thunderstorms are large, localized weather events. Thunderstorms are most common in summer but can occur in any season. All thunderstorms produce lighting and have the potential to produce tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires, and flash flooding – the last of which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm related hazard.

Lightning is of particular concern because of its unpredictability – lightning often strikes beyond what is perceived to be the storm, sometimes occurring as far as 10 miles away from rainfall.

Key Terms

A Thunderstorm Watch means there is a possibility of a thunderstorm in your area. A Thunderstorm Warning means a thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon.

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Prepare your home by cleaning gutters and drains.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees or limbs that might fall.
  • Secure or bring inside any outdoor objects that could blow away or become “missiles” and cause damage.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment.
  • Know if your residence/business is in a designated floodplain.
  • Apply for flood insurance (note that FEMA flood maps do not reflect all risks from fast-moving flash or “sheet” flooding – they types that are often generated by heavy rains).
  • As the threat approaches, decide where you will go – can you make it indoors, or is an enclosed vehicle your best option?
  • Learn First Aid.

During (Response)

  • Upon seeing lightning or hear thunder, immediately move indoors or into an enclosed vehicle.
  • Remain inside until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
  • If you are driving in low visibility, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and close the windows.
  • If you cannot get inside or reach a safe building, avoid high ground, tall or isolated trees, poles and masts, and large metal objects (including fences and bleachers).
  • If you are in open water, head to shore immediately.

After (Recovery)

  • Continue with the activity or procedure where you are going when it is safe.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

Learn more: Thunderstorms & Lightning | Ready.gov

Flooding

What It Is

Flooding is one of Seneca County’s most common hazards. Depending on its depth and velocity, flooding can be a nuisance or a disaster. Be prepared for flooding no matter where you live, but particularly if you are in a low-lying area, near a body of water, downstream from a dam, or in other areas known to flood in previous storms.

Key Terms

  • A Flood Watch means there is a possibility of flooding or a flash flood in your area.
  • A Flood Warning means a flood is occurring or will likely occur soon. If you are advised to evacuate do it immediately.
  • A Flash Flood Watch means flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground. A flash flood could occur without any warning.
  • A Flash Flood Warning means a flash flood is occurring. Seek higher ground immediately; do not wait for instructions.
  • A 100-Year Flood (or “base flood”) is a flood that has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year, according to FEMA’s flood maps. A base flood may also be referred to as a 100-year storm, and the area inundated during the base flood is sometimes called the 100-year floodplain, which generally correlated to the “Special Flood Hazard Area” where federal flood insurance is required in order to obtain a mortgage. It should be noted that a “100-year flood” refers to the annual probability of such an occurrence, not the predicted interval between such floods.
  • A 500-Year Flood is a flood that has a 0.2 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year, according to FEMA’s flood maps. The area inundated during a 500-year flood is sometimes called the 500-year floodplain. It should be noted that a “500-year flood” refers to the annual probability of such an occurrence, not the predicted interval between such floods.

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Prepare your home by cleaning gutters and drains.
  • Decide early whether you will evacuate, and where you will go if ordered to or opt to leave.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances.
  • Know if your residence or business is in a floodplain.
  • Apply for flood insurance. Consider this even if you are not in the 100-year floodplain (the FEMA-designated “Special Flood Hazard Area”) – many recent floods have exceeded the 100-year and 500-year marks!
  • Learn First Aid.

During (Response)

  • Listen to official information.
  • If you encounter rising water, move to higher ground immediately.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Always stay clear of floodwaters.
  • Do not drive through flooded roads, even if you have a vehicle with high clearance and even if the water appears to be shallow – “turn around, don’t drown.”
  • Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of shock or electrocution.

After (Recovery)

  • Return home when local officials say it is safe.
  • Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.
  • Do not drink from floodwaters.
  • Do not drink or wash with water from a flooded household well until it is tested and found to be safe to use.
  • Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater. “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

Learn more: Floods | Ready.gov

Winter Weather/Extreme Cold

What It Is

Winter Weather includes ice, heavy snow, and extreme cold conditions. These can cause power outages and loss of heat and communications services – sometimes for many days. The greatest threat from winter weather is often from secondary impacts, such as traffic accidents on icy roads. Hypothermia and frostbite, which can result from prolonged exposure to cold, are also risks. Additionally, clean-up (shoveling) from winter weather events can be strenuous, and may, therefore, pose a risk for older adults and others with physical limitations

Key Terms

  • A Winter Weather Advisory means winter weather conditions are expected and may be hazardous.
  • A Winter Storm Watch means a winter storm is possible – be prepared. (the next 36 to 48 hours)
  • A Winter Storm Warning means snow, sleet, or ice are expected – take action! (within 24 hours)
  • A Frost/Freeze Warning means below freezing temperatures are expected.
  • A Blizzard Warning indicates sustained winds or regular gusts to 35 miles per hour or more, as well as considerable amounts of snowfall or snowdrifts and near-zero visibility.

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Have your furnace serviced regularly.
  • Prepare your home by salting walkways, driveways, and entrances.
  • Have emergency heating equipment.
  • Purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • Plan for snow removal: have shovels on hand or consider going in with a few neighbors for a community snowblower.
  • Turn off outside spigots and drain those pipes.
  • Learn how to operate your water’s main shut off valve (in case of a pipe burst).
  • Learn First Aid.

During (Response)

  • Stay indoors during the storm if possible.
  • Make sure you dress appropriately to the season (layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing, wicking base layers; water-repellant outer; avoid absorbent materials like cotton).
  • Drive only if necessary – especially if you are inexperienced in winter conditions or you have rear-wheel drive.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, including:
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Incoherence
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Apparent exhaustion
  • If signs are detected, get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite, including loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose.
  • If you are driving and your vehicle stops working, pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights, stay in your car, and use your phone to call for help.

After (Recovery)

  • Be sure paved areas on your property and adjacent rights-of-way (including sidewalks) are shoveled. Un-shoveled snow is a hazard to your neighbors, and it may eventually turn to ice.
  • “Adopt” a fire hydrant near your home or business and keep it clear of snow.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia or frostbite in yourself and others.
  • Be careful when shoveling snow. Overexertion can cause injury and even trigger heart attacks. If you plan to shovel, stretch before going outside, take breaks, and don’t overexert yourself.
  • If you have neighbors who are older or have access or functional needs, a shovel for them; if you are concerned about your ability to shovel, reach out to your neighbors for help.

Learn more: Snowstorms & Extreme Cold | Ready.gov

Extreme Heat

What It Is

Extreme heat – especially coupled with high humidity – can be deadly, slowing evaporation and thus requiring the body to work harder to moderate its core temperature. Overexposure to hear and/or overexertion (too much exercise or effort) can trigger a heat-related illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and eventually heat stroke. Heat-related illness is a particularly high risk for children, older adults, and those who are infirm or overweight.

Key Terms

  • A Heat Wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with high humidity.
  • The Heat Index indicates how hot it feels, with relative humidity and sun exposure added to the absolute air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.
  • Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion.
  • Heat Exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place, and body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion must be treated with fluids and cooling of the skin, or it will turn into heatstroke.
  • Heat Stroke (or “sunstroke”) is a life-threatening condition in which the victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweat to cool the body, stops working. Heatstroke victims will be completely incoherent or unconscious, and they require immediate medical attention.

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • If you have an air conditioner, have it serviced regularly.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Know your body and know what is normal.
  • Dress in loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperatures.
  • Reschedule outdoor activities, if possible.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Learn First Aid.

During (Response)

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to heat and sun.
  • Drink plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day.
  • Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, have a phone handy, and take frequent breaks.
  • If you must exercise, consider indoor activities. If you must exercise outside, do so during cooler parts of the day, drink extra fluids, use a buddy system, have a phone handy, and reduce your level of effort.
  • If you feel woozy, overheated, or unwell, take action immediately!
  • Stop any strenuous activity.
  • Get somewhere cool.
  • Drink something if you can.
  • Cool your skin by taking a cold bath or holding anything cold against your body.
  • Call someone for help, or call 911 – do this before your condition compromises your critical thinking skills.
  • Check on older neighbors and any neighbors without air conditioning.

After (Recovery)

  • Consult a medical professional if a heat-related condition does not approve.
  • Continue to hydrate.

Learn more: Extreme Heat | Ready.gov

Tornado/High Winds

What It Is

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. They are characterized by a rapidly spinning column of air from 65 miles per hour to upwards 200 miles per hour. Weak tornadoes will cause superficial damage to directly impacted buildings, while very strong tornadoes can destroy everything along paths hundreds of yards across. Tornadoes can accompany thunderstorms, without warning, and can be invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. NYS experiences an average of nine tornadoes per year.

Key Terms

  • A Tornado Watch means current weather conditions may result in a tornado.
  • A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by a weather radar.
  • The Enhanced Fujita Scale measures tornado strength by wind speed (EF0 to EF5).

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Practice sheltering in place in the interior of your residence or business.
  • If there is a tornado watch, pay attention to a weather radio, commercial radio, television, or a news website for up to date information.
  • During a tornado watch (not a warning), secure or bring inside any outdoor objects that could blow away or become “missiles” and cause damage.
  • Watch for signs of a tornado: dark or greenish skies, hail, large, dark low-lying clouds, loud roar.
  • Learn First Aid.

During (Response)

  • Listen to official information.
  • Go immediately to the lowest level of your building, to an interior room or hallway.
  • Stay away from windows and doorways.
  • Do not stay in a trailer or a mobile home. Go immediately to a building with a strong foundation.
  • If you are in a car, or if shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not seek refuge under a bridge or overpass.
  • Plan to stay in your shelter location until the danger has passed.

After (Recovery)

  • Return home when local officials say it is safe.
  • Stay clear from damaged buildings and infrastructure.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

Learn more: Tornados | Ready.gov

Earthquake

What It Is

An earthquake is a shaking of the ground that can cause damage to buildings and infrastructure. Following an earthquake, fire is a significant risk due to gas leaks and water pressure failures.

Earthquake strength is described by the Richter Scale, which measures amplitude on a logarithmic basis – meaning that each whole number correlates to a 10-fold increase in earthquake amplitude or a 30-fold increase in total energy released. Earthquakes below 5 on the Richter scale may be felt but rarely cause damage; earthquakes of 9 and up cause complete regional devastation.

NYS has not seen a damaging earthquake since 2002. Most of the earthquakes in New York have taken place in the greater New York City area, in the Adirondack Mountains region, and in the western part of the state. Seneca County is fortunate to be located in a very stable geologic portion of the state.

Key Terms

  • An Aftershock is an earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake.
  • The Epicenter is the place on the earth’s surface directly above the point on the fault where the earthquake rupture began.
  • A Fault is a fracture along which the earth’s crust is displaced during an earthquake.
  • Magnitude is the amount of energy released during an earthquake.

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members.
  • Understand how your home or structure will react, and consider hardening if there are areas of concern.

During (Response)

  • Drop, cover, and hold on. Drop to your hands and knees, if you can, protecting your head and neck.
  • Stay away from windows if you are indoors.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops or if you are sure it is safe.
  • If you are outside, find a clear spot away from tall buildings and drop to the ground until the shaking stops.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop.
  • Listen to official information.

After (Recovery)

  • Expect aftershocks (smaller earthquakes) for hours or days after the initial quake.
  • Avoid damaged areas.
  • Check your utilities (especially gas), and evacuate and call 911 if you smell gas.
  • Look for cracks in your foundation or drywall, as this may be a sign of structural damage. If you find damage, have the structure inspected before reoccupying it.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

Learn more: EarthQuakes | Ready.gov

Pandemic Influenza (Flu)

What It Is

Pandemic is a global communicable disease outbreak (whereas an “epidemic” is regional in nature or otherwise confined to particular populations). An influenza pandemic occurs when a strain of influenza virus emerges:

  • Which causes serious illness.
  • For which there is limited immunity in the human population.
  • Which is able to easily and quickly spread person-to-person – especially through saliva, coughing, or sneezing.

Infectious diseases are one of the leading cause of death worldwide. Because of air travel and international trade, infectious disease agents are carried across borders every day by humans, animals, insects, and food products.

Key Terms

Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that affects millions of people each year. Different strains have widely variant characteristics in terms of virulence, communicability, and population impacts. The flu virus also has the capacity to rapidly mutate and cross to and from multiple species.

Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, which people and communities can take to help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses, like pandemic flu. Many NPIs are provided below, in the list of “What to do: Before.”

What To Do

Before (Preparedness/Mitigation)

Sign up for Hyper-Reach and have a battery or crank-powered NOAA weather radio available.

  • Get a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months and older, unless a doctor advises against it.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Take common-sense steps to stop the spread of germs including covering coughs and sneezes and staying away from others as much as possible when you are sick.
  • Wash and sanitize household items often.
  • Practice good health habits, including eating a balanced diet, exercising daily, and getting sufficient rest.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough, and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other sources and store them, for personal reference.

During (Response)

  • Listen to official information.
  • If you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash or sanitize hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • If you have a fever, make sure you are fever-free for 24 hours before you return to work and school.

After (Recovery)

  • Clean surfaces such as counters, doorknobs, fixtures, phones, remotes, and linens.
  • Common household cleaning products can kill the flu virus, including products containing:
  • Chlorine Bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Detergents (soap)
  • Iodine-based antiseptics
  • Alcohols

Learn more: Pandemic | Ready.gov