What is a Storm Surge?

The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge!

Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides.

Hurricane Specialist, Bryan Norcoss, from the Weather Channel, explains the science behind a storm surge in the days leading up to Hurricane Isaac in August 2012.

Because much of the United States’ densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.


Will Tornadoes Get Worse As Earth’s Climate Heats Up?

On May 20, 2013, a devastating EF5 tornado shredded the city of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 deaths and destroying an estimated $3B in property.  It was the third time a tornado has stuck the city in 14 years.

In the NOVA special, Oklahoma’s Deadliest Tornadoes, we meet scientists, literally working on the front lines, in an attempt to understand when, where, how and why tornadoes form in “Tornado Alley.”

The film also asks:

  • Why was 2011—the worst ever recorded tornado season that left hundreds dead in Joplin and Tuscaloosa—followed by the quietest ever year of activity prior to the Moore disaster?
  • Can improved radar and warning technology explain why so many fewer died in Moore than in Joplin?
  • And will tornadoes get worse as Earth’s climate heats up?


Like a jet engine, with a train behind it.

On May 27, 2013, near Salinas, KS, Brandon Ivey and Sean Casey capture this amazing video from inside a massive wedge tornado.

One After Another After Another

The United States experiences more than 1,000 tornadoes a year.

While most storms are weak and occur in sparsely populated areas, recent storms have inflicted heavy casualties in more populated regions of the country. Moore, OK, Tuscaloosa, AL, and Joplin, MO are the most recent communities to suffer.

Tornado_Courtesy of Gene Robertson
Image: Gene Robertson, PDS Storm Chasers

Tornadoes form when large air masses of different temperatures collide; when cold, dry air runs into warm moist air, which rises, condenses into heavy rain, and then falls in powerful downdrafts.   These conditions occur most often in the Great Plains, where the high altitude jet stream from the west converges with warm, moist air moving north from the Gulf of Mexico, and warm, dry air from the southwest.

One week after a devastating tornado hit the southern Plains of Oklahoma; a similar weather pattern is being repeated.

Earlier today the NWS Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate to severe threat warning for thunderstorms, tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds, Wednesday afternoon and evening for parts of the central and southern Plains, including parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

If you live in the areas of high risk, please be alert to changing weather conditions.  Look for the following danger signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.

There’s an APP for That

FEMA’s ReadyCampaign and the Flat Stanley Project collaborate on an app to help educate school-aged children on the need to be prepared for emergencies and disasters, as well as what they can do to help their families and loved ones to build more resilient households.

Flat Stella and Flat Stanley Characters with FEMA hat, Flashlight and Kit Bag with Ready Logo

By downloading the app, children and their parents can build their own FEMA Flat Stanley or Flat Stella, and then share with other children and classrooms the steps they have taken to support preparedness throughout their homes, schools and communities.

According to Flatter World, 15 percent of all schools in the U.S. use the adventures of Flat Stanley in their classroom lesson plans.  And in case you did not notice, Flat Stanley’s sister, Flat Stella has joined the campaign.


Education is key for reducing children’s risks to disasters

When disaster strikes children often suffer the most, but if we can teach them at an early age about the risks posed by natural hazards, they will have a better chance to survive and thrive in the aftermath of a disaster.

Natural hazards, such as floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, do not need to become disasters. For example, if a hurricane churns through a location where no one lives, the hurricane is just a natural hazard, not a disaster. But if people are living in the area where the hurricane makes land fall are affected and even killed by the hurricane, in this case, the hurricane becomes a disaster.

The United Nation Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has developed a series of on-line disaster simulation games designed to teach children around the world how to protect themselves from natural hazards before they can become major disasters.

Children who play the games learn how the location and the construction materials used to build houses can make a difference when disasters strike, as well as how early warning systems, evacuation plans and education can save lives.

As the future architects, mayors, doctors, and parents of the world of tomorrow, when children know what to do to reduce the impact of disasters, they will be obliged create a safer world for the generations that come after them.

The FEMA Think Tank

Want to give input on how to improve the national emergency management system?  Join the FEMA Think Tank.

Please save the date and join Richard Serino, FEMA Deputy Administrator, for the next FEMA Think Tank conference call on May 28, 2013, from New York City.

This month’s call will be held in partnership with UNICEF and focus on the stories of disaster survivors and international emergency workers. The key objective is to encourage a more disaster survivor centric approach to emergency management at every level, and draw on experience and lessons learned to strengthen preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time: 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm Eastern

Call in Number: 1-888-740-6143

Passcode: 1202139

Captioning Link: http://fedrcc.us//Enter.aspx?EventID=2157240&CustomerID=321

Before the call, be sure to visit the online forum to share your own disaster survivor story or to submit ideas and comment on other stories or topics.