Florence, Maria, Harvey, Sandy, Katrina… you know them right ? These hurricanes are pretty terrifying and hitting the US and Caribbeans regularly. But throughout the year, the US are the target of smaller but still pretty scary extreme weather events - at least for Europeans - like tropical storms, winter storms and tornadoes. This is just the day to day in America.
Let's dig a bit
Specialties by regions
California gets fire with mud rivers
The north in under a massive quantity of snow with below -20C temperature throughout winter but it is just normal for them
The Center West is a desert - really hot and dry, prompt to sneaky flash flooding
The Middle gets tornadoes, just that
The South East gets hurricanes every year (they do not even count the tropical storm anymore I guess)
The North East gets winter storms and occasionally tropical storms and hurricane
For the last almost 4 years we have been living in Virginia, we can count a little dozen of tropical and winter storms, we avoided one hurricane this week end and a few month back I got stuck on the highway because I really could not see anything on the road (I felt like I was under the Niagara Falls.. no big deal). During the 29 years I lived in France, I remember one picture of my family playing with a foot of snow when I was 6yo and one or maybe two major storms.
The preparation routine
With that many storms - tropical or winter storms - and that many trees, the highest risk in Virginia is getting a power outage and being stuck at home, either because there is too much snow or because there are too many trees on the roads.
Here is the preparation routine : before every major weather event, everybody rushes to the supermarket to get food supply and water to survive a few days. They also get gas for their car which I always wonder what for : hitting the road is definitely not part of my plan in such an event. People also get personal generators which I totally understand for people living in the countryside as it could take a few weeks to get power back.
The first time we had the storm, we did not plan much and we were thinking that these Americans were just exaggerating. Well, we got 3 days without power… so we moved into a friend’s house with all the meat and ice cream from our freezer :) Lessons learned : it can actually happen and yes having some food and water at home is a safe move.
The alert system
One thing that was pretty new for us : the alerts. The system is called ‘Emergency Alert System’. The population is alerted of any major extreme event or any major event that could cause a major impact on the population. The message comes through hacking your phone or your TV.
The text messages - You will get text messages on your phone or a voice message on your TV with specific information for your geographical zone.
Be ready to get on your phone something like :
‘Tsunami danger in the area. Take shelter now’
‘Extreme wind’. Warning in this area. Take shelter’
‘Flash flood Warning. Avoid flooded areas.’
‘Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland’
In Hawai last year, they got this one by mistake : ‘Ballistic missile threat inboud to Hawai. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill’.
Once you get the message, then you figure it out.
TV Message - The first two sounds are scary : the first one and then the second. The first time we heard it, we actually thought that this was the end. The kid was livid and we were not that brave either… listen to it if you believe I am exaggerating !
After the first 2 scary noises, they tell you what to do. I remember this one time where we were living on the third and last floor and the message was that you had to go on ground floor due to the wind forces that could cause tree falls… we were like : mhhh soohhh… interesting ! so we stayed in the kitchen… far away from the window hoping for the best.
Oh, one fun thing I found about this emergency alert system : it has already been hacked a few times alerting the population zombies were on their way :) Poor joke but pretty funny actually.