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Alberto: What is a subtropical storm?

Days away from the official start of Atlantic hurricane season, the first tropical system of 2018 formed Friday in the Caribbean Sea. 

The National Hurricane Center has begun to issue warnings on Subtropical Storm Alberto as the system makes its way over the Yucatan and into the Gulf of Mexico.

>> Read more trending news 

At 11 a.m. Friday, forecasters put Alberto 55 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico. The storm’s sustained winds were 40 mph and it was moving northeast at 6 mph. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled to investigate the storm Friday afternoon. 

The NHC classified the storm as a “preseason subtropical storm.” While there is a difference in the classification of storms – from extratropical, to subtropical, to tropical – they are all capable of threatening life and property.

Here’s a look at the characteristics of both subtropical and tropical systems. 

Subtropical storms:

  • A subtropical storm is basically a low-pressure system that is partially a winter-type storm and partially a tropical storm. 
  • They are colder than tropical storms, meaning the core temperature is lower than a tropical storm’s core temperature. Warm water feeds tropical systems making them spin faster and become stronger. 
  • There is a closed low-pressure center of circulation with the storms, just as with tropical storms, but the rains and wind are not near the center. Instead, thunderstorm activity and strong winds are miles (sometimes hundreds of miles) from the center of circulation. Think of the shape of a comma.
  • Subtropical storms can and often do organize into tropical storms.
  • They are less likely to become hurricanes, though they can.
  • They are generally large storms. 

Tropical systems

  • Tropical storms are powered by very warm water, and are well-connected to the upper atmosphere. The warm water is drawn up into the system through the upper atmosphere and pushed down again as the cycle repeats, causing a heat pump effect that fuels the storm.
  • Tropical storms gain strength by thunderstorm activity around the eye, or center of circulation.

For  more  information on tropical systems, see:

>>Hurricane season: What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6?

>>What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

>>How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down 

>>9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane 

>>15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane 

>>Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes 

>>Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane 

Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?

There are a ton of weather terms that might be easy to confuse including hurricanes, tropical depressions and tropical storms. Here’s the difference.

>> Read more trending news

Tropical depressions form when a low-pressure area is accompanied by thunderstorms that produce maximum winds below 39 mph. 

As for tropical storms, those are more severe. Depressions become storms when winds reach between 39 and 73 mph. They also must follow a cyclone pattern to become a storm.

Hurricanes are a step up from a tropical storm, with winds of more than 74 mph. Hurricanes are further rated into five categories based on their wind speed:

Category 1: 74-95 mph

Category 2: 96-110 mph

Category 3: 111-129 mph

Category 4: 130-156 mph

Category 5: above 157 mph

However, all three types of storms are fueled by warm, moist air near oceans in tropical areas.

Hurricane season: What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6?

One was a structural engineer who thought in the ways engineers are trained to – logically and result-oriented. 

The other, a meteorologist who, at age 6, had survived one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, and was eager to warn others of the destructive potential of a tropical weather system. 

Together, engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson developed a system that offered people who live in storm-prone areas a clear early warning of trouble to come. 

It’s been 45 years since the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale was unveiled, and the names of the monster storms it classifies are still referenced today – Camille, Andrew, Hugo, Mitch.

As hurricane season approaches on June 1, here’s a look at the system that ranks tropical cyclones by their potential destructive power, how it works and the men who invented it.

What is the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale?

The scale rates the potential for damage from hurricanes based on the storm’s sustained wind speed. 

Who are Saffir and Simpson?

Herbert Saffir was a structural engineer who moved to Florida to become a county engineer after graduating from Georgia Tech and serving in World War II. 

After living in South Florida for a while, Saffir became interested in the effects of hurricane-force winds on coastal structures, and in 1959 opened a structural engineering firm in Coral Gables, Florida.

He quickly became an expert on the forces that damage buildings during a storm and was asked to help develop building codes for the region.

His expertise led to an appointment to head a United Nations project looking for a way to reduce damage to low-cost buildings in hurricane-prone areas. The work he did on that project became the basis for Saffir’s scale of wind damage. 

Saffir continued to work in structural engineering until four weeks before his death at age 90 in 2007.

Robert Simpson had first-hand knowledge of hurricanes from an early age. In 1919, when he was 6, he and his family survived a massive hurricane that made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. The family had to swim down the streets of the town to safety as the waters rose to 8 feet above street level. 

“The family had to swim — with me on my father’s back — three blocks in near hurricane force winds to safe shelter in the courthouse,” Simpson said. “A lot of what I saw frightened me, but also supplied a fascination that left me with a lifelong interest in hurricanes.”

After graduating from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and then earning a master’s degree at Emory University in Atlanta, he worked as a music teacher in Texas high schools because he could not find work as a physicist. Finally, in 1940, he was hired by the U.S. Weather Bureau as a meteorologist. Simpson worked all over the world for the Weather Bureau, with stints in New Orleans, Panama, Miami, Hawaii and Washington D.C. 

In the 1950s, he lobbied officials at the Weather  Bureau (the forerunner of the National Weather Service) to do more research into tropical systems and the effects they have on coastal areas. His arguments worked, and in 1955, he was appointed to lead the National Hurricane Research Project.

He headed up the project for four years then left to get a doctorate at the University of Chicago. In the 1960s, he was in charge of Project Stormfury, an experiment in which clouds were seeded with silver iodide in the hopes of diminishing hurricane intensity. 

In 1967, Simpson became the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. In 1968, he was named the center’s director. He stayed at NHC until 1973.

He retired to Washington to start a weather consulting firm with his wife, Joanne.

How was the Saffir-Simpson scale developed?

The system of categories that became the National Hurricane Center’s way of conveying the strength and destructive potential of a storm did not start out as an NHC project. 

Saffir’s United Nations project work led him to creating a rating system for hurricanes that the U.N.  could use to try to match buildings with their potential risks for damage. At the time, hurricanes were classified as either “minor” or “major” storms. In 1969, Saffir came up with a rating system that included five categories using wind speed, barometric pressure, likely flooding and storm surge as determining factors.

Saffir took his work to Simpson who was the head of the NHC at the time. Simpson wanted to have a system that gave people common sense information about storms to help them make a decision about staying put or evacuating a coastal area.

Neil Frank, who seceded Simpson as NHC director, told The Washington Post Simpson was, “very sensitive to being able to communicate to the public in meaningful terminology.”

Simpson and Saffir worked together and Simpson assigned a range of wind speeds and storm surges for each category, and the Saffir-Simpson scale was born. 

The NHC released the scale to the public in 1973 and began classifying storms the following season.

The system remained as it was developed until 2009 when the NHC eliminated storm surge, pressure and potential flooding from the factors that make up the categories. Those factors, the NHC explained, did not always match up with the damage that storms can inflict. 

Another change was made in 2012 when the wind speed for a Category 4 storm was changed by 1 mph at both ends of the category. That was done because winds speeds are measured in 5-knot increments by the NHC, and the conversion to a miles-per-hour-measurement was incorrectly classifying storms as either Category 3 or Category 5.

How does the Saffir-Simpson scale work?

The scale has five categories ranging from Category 1 – with winds from 74 mph to 95 mph to a Category 5 – with sustained winds in excess of 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center uses a one-minute averaging time to establish a measure of sustained winds. In other words, the highest winds speed maintained for a full minute would be the highest sustained wind speed for a storm.

Here, from the National Hurricane Center, are the categories for the scale:

Category 1: Maximum sustained winds are at 74-95 mph. Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.

Category 2: Maximum sustained winds are at 96-110 mph. Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Category 3: Maximum sustained winds are at 111-129 mph. Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.

Category 4: Maximum sustained winds are at 130-156 mph. Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Category 5: Maximum sustained winds are at 157 or higher. Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Can there be a Category 6 hurricane?

With stronger storms of the past decade, some have questioned whether there should be another category for hurricanes, a Category 6 that would be made up of storms with sustained winds of 158 mph-180 mph. 

Before his death in 2014, Simpson argued that there was no need for another category since what is measured is the potential damage a hurricane’s winds can inflict on human-made structures. Simpson once told The Washington Post that "...when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building, it's going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it's engineered." 

In other words, winds from a Category 5 storm will be sufficient to severely damage or destroy most man-made structures.  

For more information on hurricanes, see:

>>What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

>>How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down 

>>Why you should never use a generator during a storm 

>>9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane 

>>15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane 

>>Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes 

How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and residents in a storm's path should become familiar with hurricane categories in order to better protect themselves.

The National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a storm's strength and potential destruction. The scale analyzes a hurricane's wind speed and assigns it a 1 to 5 rating.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The categories for the hurricanes listed below are determined by the storm's strength when it made landfall in the U.S., according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm — Winds 39-73 mph  Category 1 Hurricane — winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt) 

Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days. 

- Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995

Category 2 Hurricane — winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt) 

Well-constructed frame homes could receive major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected, with outages that could last from several days to weeks. 

- Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (FL & LA) 1998 and Gloria 1985

Category 3 Hurricane — winds 111-129 mph (96-112 kt) 

Well-built frame homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.

- Examples: Katrina (LA) 2005, Keith 2000, Fran 1996, Opal 1995, Alicia 1983 and Betsy 1965

Category 4 Hurricane — winds 130-156 mph (113-136 kt) 

Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

- Examples: Andrew (FL) 1992, Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960

Category 5 Hurricane — winds 157 mph and up (137+ kt) 

A high percentage of frame homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

- Examples: Camille 1969 and Labor Day storm 1935

Everything you need to know to prepare for hurricane season

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. Officials agree that the best way to avoid catastrophic damage is to be proactive.

"Advance planning and preparation are essential for protecting property, reducing risk and ultimately saving lives," National Weather Service officials said in the introduction the NWS hurricane guide for the Southeast.

Charley English, former director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security said in a news release from 2014: "Learn your flood risk, create a ready kit for your home and car, and develop an evacuation and family communications plan."

GEMA said in that release that research shows "69 percent of Georgians do not know designated evacuation routes from their community, and 67 percent have not arranged a family meeting place or reconnection plan."

Ready Georgia provides a host of tools and information at its website.

It recommends evacuation:

• If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.

• If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelters are particularly hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.

• If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.

• If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.

• You should be able to move your valuables within 15 minutes. 

Here are more tips to help you prep for the storms, from the NWS guide.

• Elevation matters: Are you in a flood or evacuation zone?

• Mobile homes: Check tie-downs and prepare to evacuate.

• Landscaping: Always trim trees, shrubbery and dead limbs, especially close to your home.

• Roofing: Inspect it for loose tiles, etc., and clear loose or clogged gutters and drainspouts.

• Doors: Reinforce garage doors and tracks or replace with a hurricane-tested door; and reinforce double-entry doors with heavy-duty foot and head bolts. Use security dead bolts with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.

• Windows: If possible, install hurricane shutters. Alternatively, use five-eighths inch (or greater) grade exterior plywood secured by 2 1/2 inch screws and/or special clips. 

• Renters need to prepare, too: Review your renter's and flood insurance; prepare to relocate to a lower floor

• For pets: Update their vaccinations and have proof; have a current photo; have properly sized pet carriers; pack enough food and water for the duration of the evacuation; and be sure to have proper ID collars. Read more.

The NWS also recommends preparing emergency evacuation kits for functional and medical needs clients, those clients who either require support to maintain their independence or support of trained medical professionals.

• Contact information, including doctor's contact

• Special equipment, if needed; and a list with style and serial numbers of included medical devices

Here's how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane

Hurricane season begins every year on June 1. Here are some simple tips to keep your pets safe if you are in the path of a storm.

Prepare ahead for safety and comfort of your pet

Do not leave pets at home, especially if you live in an evacuation area. Even if they survive the storm, they might flee a damaged home and be lost in the chaos.

It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Here are some options:

Hotels: Contact hotels and motels outside your area in advance to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask whether “no pet” policies could be waived. Keep a list of “pet-friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information. For an impending storm, call ahead for reservations. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following websites to find pet-friendly lodgings.

Friends and relatives: Ask friends, relatives or others outside the area if they can shelter your animals. Make arrangements with neighbors to help evacuate pets in the event you can’t get home.

Pet-friendly shelters: Find out if pets will be permitted at an evacuation shelter.

If you haven’t already done so, get those shots now. Infectious diseases can become a big threat after a disaster.

If a pet becomes lost or escapes during the confusion of an evacuation, proper identification will increase the chances of a safe return home. Tag should include your cell number and, if space allows, the number of an out-of-town contact. Consider having your pet tattooed or having an ID microchip implanted.

You will need a pet carrier or cage for each dog, cat, bird or small animal. Make sure it is large enough for each pet to stand up and turn around comfortably.

Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) of you with your pet, and store these with your pet’s license, medical records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you. Include pictures of the pet with you to help with any challenge to your ownership. Take photos with your cellphone so they’re stored there as well.

Set up a pet disaster kit

Put together a pet disaster kit with medications and medical records in a waterproof container, a leash and collar or harness for each pet, non-spill food and water dishes, a 14-day supply of food, water in non-breakable containers, a manual can opener, grooming supplies, your pet’s blanket and a favorite toy, cleanser and disinfectant to handle waste, newspapers or litter, paper towels and plastic bags.

Storm evacuations: How coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick

If you evacuate because of a storm, here is one thing that you can do to help ensure you and your family members don’t get sick after returning to your home.

>> Read more trending news 

You may have seen this post on your Facebook feed. It suggests to putting a quarter on a cup of frozen water in the freezer before you leave. When you return, you can see if the quarter stayed put or if it sank. The sinking will tell you that the water melted. If the water in the cup melted then refroze, the same can be said for the food in the freezer.

But can you believe all of the tips and hacks you see on Facebook and other social media?

In this case, experts said yes, but with a slight change. 

The Houston Chronicle reported that instead of a quarter, you’ll want to use a penny.

That’s because pennies contain copper and copper is a better conductor of heat, Don Mercer told the Chronicle. Mercer is an associate professor in Food Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

Mercer said that food will stay frozen in a freezer for about 24 hours, as long as you don’t open the freezer door to check on what is inside.

The coin/cup trick helps when you’re away and are not sure if there’s been an extended power outage. Mercer said if the contents of the freezer thawed and then refroze, you’d have no way of knowing without the hack. If food thaws then refreezes, microorganisms that were there before the first freeze can multiply, posing a threat of food poisoning. 

Hurricane evacuation: Helpful apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, traffic routes

If you are looking for information needed when evacuating before a storm, here is a list of apps and websites that may help.

For Federal Aviation Administration major airport status, see http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/semap.jsp.

For gas availability, see GasBuddy at https://www.gasbuddy.com/.

For a map of Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots, which are located both indoors and outdoors in places such as shopping districts, parks and businesses, visit xfinity.com/wifi.

For traffic slowdowns or wrecks, road closures and other real-time traffic issues, go to Waze.

To find a hotel room, see expedia.com.

If you need information about weather, public alerts, shelters, forecasts and more, go to Google.org’s crisis maps.

If you want money transfer or storm tracking apps, or just want to network, try the App Store’s "Stay Safe After the Hurricane” collection.

Various hurricane apps are available from a collection Google put together.

15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane

Here are some safety tips emergency management and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are offering that could save your life during a hurricane:Evacuation

1. If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to evacuate. The best way to stay safe is to be away from the storm's landfall. The orders to evacuate are issued based on historical flood maps and the strength of the storm. 

2. A Category 5 hurricane will bring “catastrophic damage,” officials with the National Hurricane Center warn, adding that “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

3.  If you are in a mobile home, leave. Mobile homes will not survive a Category 5 hurricane.

4. Do not leave your pets at home, especially if they are outside.

If you stay

If you choose not to evacuate, or cannot leave, here are a few things you should do:

1. Get in a more secure room in your home – a closet or a bathroom without a window.

2. Stay on the bottom floor of your home unless water is rising.

3.  Do not go into your attic to escape rising water because you could get trapped. If you absolutely have to get in the attic to survive rising water, make sure you take an ax with you so you can cut a hole in the roof to escape.

4. If you are in an area that will flood, turn off electricity at the main breaker before water gets in your home to reduce the risk of electrocution.

5. Of course, do not try to go outside during the storm. Pieces of buildings, roofs, trees and other objects will be flying through the air.

6. Do not use candles as a light source – flashlights are what you need to use.

7. When you lose power, click here to see how you can use the internet.

During or after the storm

1. Do not use a generator during a storm.

2.  Never use portable generators inside a home, in your garage, in your basement or in a crawl space.

3. Generators produce carbon monoxide and if they are inside your house, your home can fill up with carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide will kill you if you breathe too much of it. If you are using a portable generator to power appliances in your home following the storm, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm. Appliances should be plugged directly into a generator. Do not hook the generator to your household electrical system. You can hurt yourself and kill utility workers when they begin to reconnect electricity to homes.

4. Do not get anywhere near standing water. It could contain live electric wires. If you come in contact with it, you could be electrocuted. If you see wires on the ground after the storm, assume they are live.

Here are some other tips from the Twitter feed of FloridaDisaster.org if you are evacuating or if you are staying home.

 The 5 ‘p’s of evacuation

 Don’t’ go farther than you have to

9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane

Whenever a hurricane is poised to strike a region, there are several terms meteorologists use that might not be familiar.

>> Read more trending news

Here are common ones you should know as you keep your eye on the storm’s path: 

Feeder band

Lines or bands of low-level clouds that move (feed) into the upper region of a thunderstorm, usually from the east through south.

This term also is used in tropical meteorology to describe spiral-shaped bands of convection surrounding, and moving toward, the center of a tropical cyclone.

Squalls

When the wind speed increases to at least 16 knots and is sustained at 22 knots or more for at least one minute.

Storm surge

An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. The height is the difference between the normal level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.

>> Related: What is storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

Eye wall

An organized band or ring of clouds that surround the eye, or light-wind center, of a tropical cyclone. Eye wall and wall cloud are used synonymously.

Sustained winds

Wind speed determined by averaging observed values over a two-minute period.

Computer models

Meteorologists use computer models to figure out a storm’s path and its potential path. The models are based on typical weather patterns.

Advisory

Official information describing all tropical cyclone watches and warnings in effect along with details concerning tropical cyclone locations, intensity and movement, and precautions that should be taken.

Hurricane watch

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Hurricane warning

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

Why you should never use a generator during a storm

If you are in a mandatory evacuation area, you need to leave. If you feel unsafe in your home,  you should get out. If you are making a decision to stay, safety in the home should obviously be your No. 1 priority.

For many, a portable generator feels like a guarantee of a semblance of normalcy following a storm. While it can keep refrigerators on and fans or a small air conditioner running, there are dangers associated with using it.

Here are some tips on generators and why you should never use one during a storm.

From the National Safety Council

1. Always read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions before running generator.

2. Engines emit carbon monoxide. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space or other enclosed areas. Fatal fumes can build up, and neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air. 

3. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors. 

4. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area in which you’re running a generator. 

5. Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling, and always use fresh gasoline. If you do not plan to use your generator in 30 days, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer. 

6. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety. 

7. Never operate the generator near combustible materials. 

8. If you have to use extension cords, be sure they are of the grounded type and are rated for the application. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations. 

9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people in risk of electrocution – especially utility workers trying to reconnect electric power after the storm.

10. Generators produce powerful voltage. Never operate under wet conditions. Take precautions to protect your generator from exposure to rain.

11. Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated, in watts or amps, at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.  

 

How to use internet during a storm when your internet is down

If you are near the forecasted path of a hurricane and you fear the loss of communications that will come when power and internet service is disrupted, don’t worry.

>> Read more trending news

While there’s not an app for that, there is a workaround, as long as you have cellular service.

During and after the storm, you may find that making phone calls becomes impossible, and that 3G and 4G internet service isn’t working, or at least not working well. The good news is that you may still be receiving text messages. 

A story from The Washington Post offers some tips on how to use Twitter in a situation where internet service is spotty. Twitter was originally a text-based service, so it lends itself well to such a use.

Here are a few other ways to keep in touch with the outside world:

Every phone has an email address, and every provider offers something called an email “gateway.” The gateway allows you to send and receive emails via the text message function on your phone.

Here, courtesy of HumanInet, is how to find your phone’s email address:

If you’re on Verizon, it’s yournumber@vtext.com (as in 5551234567@vtext.com), or if that doesn’t work, yournumber@vzwpix.com

If you’re on AT&T, it’s yournumber@txt.att.net, or if that doesn’t work yournumber@mms.att.net

If you’re on Sprint, it’s yournumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com

If you’re on T-Mobile, it’s yournumber@tmomail.net

(For other carriers, or to troubleshoot yours, check here.)

Once you have your gateway address, you’ll need to forward your email via SMS to that address.

To do that, go into “settings” in your phone and look for something like “add a forwarding address.” When you find that, type in your phone’s email address.

According to HumanInet, that method may not work on some phones. If you have a problem with your phone, you can use an automated forwarding service like TXTJet, they suggest.

If you want to send an email via text, you can enter you email address instead of a phone number.

If you want to get updates from Twitter accounts when the internet gets spotty, you can set up a SMS “Fast Follow.” You don’t even have to have a Twitter account to get updates from those you choose to follow.

You do this by texting “Follow (username)” to 40404. (Follow@nhc_atlantic to follow the National Hurricane Center, for instance).

You cannot use this function to post on Twitter, only to receive notices.

To post something on Twitter, the social media company says to do this:

Send a text to Twitter code [40404] with the word START.

Twitter will reply and ask you to text YES to the Twitter short code.

Text your username to the same number. Do not use the @ symbol or quotation marks. Send your username only. For example: larrybird

Next, text your password. This is case sensitive, so be sure you are sending your password correctly.

Then you can text messages to go out on your Twitter account.

If you can’t go without Facebook, even during a storm, activate Facebook via SMS by going to Facebook account settings and clicking “Mobile,” it’s on the left side of the page.

Turn on Facebook Message Forwarding and Notifications. After it’s set up, post by texting to 32665 or FBOOK.

You can even search Google by adding 466453 (GOOGLE) to your phonebook, then text to it to search.

Sources: Twitter, The Washington Post; HumanInet; Facebook; Google

 

What is storm surge and why is it dangerous?

What is storm surge, how does it happen and why should you be wary of it? Here is a quick look at storm surge.

What is storm surge?

A storm surge is water pushed inland as a hurricane advances and makes landfall.

How does it form?

Imagine a bowl of water. Put your hand in the middle of the bowl and cup it. Now slowly push your hand toward the edge of the bowl. Those are the same dynamics as storm surge. The ocean water is pushed by winds and waves, and is also sucked into the air near the eye of the hurricane by low pressure.

Is it a “wall of water” that rushes in?

Rarely. It is usually a rise of water that can happen quickly, moving at the same rate as the forward speed of a hurricane. 

How powerful is a storm surge?

Very powerful. Only 1 cubic yard of sea water weighs 1,728 pounds. A 6-inch surge can knock a person down.

How dangerous is it?

Storm surge kills more people in a hurricane than all other components of the storm. The overwhelming majority of deaths in the 10 deadliest U.S. landfalling hurricanes were the result of storm surge.

How can I stay safe?

Get away from it. A surge 1 foot deep can take a car off a road. Get out early, because the surge can begin up to 24 hours before landfall. During Hurricane Katrina, people stayed in their homes and died there when the surge filled their homes with water and they could not escape. Also, don’t leave pets at home. Many animals died when people left them in their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

HURRICANE HARVEY: Bait shop owner’s insurance payout thwarted by a typo

Mary Ann Heiman opened her bait shop on the the causeway that crosses Redfish Bay to Port Aransas in 2011. From the outside, 1950 Hwy 361 was nothing fancy.

“The building was just an old metal building that had sat here since the 1980s,” she said. “It was basically held together with nails and glue and love and duct tape.” The real value of Offshore Adventures was the equipment inside, the tanks and freezers Heiman needed to hold the crabs, shrimp, mud minnows and mullet that anglers bought in their pursuit of the Texas coast’s rich lode of redfish, trout and drum.

A resident of the area on and off since her 1950s childhood there, Heiman knew the wild weather that occasionally swept in from the Gulf and the havoc it could leave behind. Last July she purchased a policy from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association to cover $60,000-worth of business personal property inside 1590 Hwy. 361 from high wind damage. It cost $679.

>> Read more trending news 

Heiman’s timing couldn’t have been better. Hurricane Harvey barreled into Port Aransas a month later, on the evening of August 25, packing 130 mph winds and driving rain.

When Heiman was allowed back into the area a few days later, her bait shop had disappeared, the splintered debris of her livelihood hurled inland by the Category 4 winds. A group of wooden pylons roughly representing the outline of the shop poked out of the sand like a mouthful of broken teeth.

PHOTOS: Port Aransas recovery, seven months later

It was only after the adjuster for the windstorm insurance association went out to the site and agreed the record winds had destroyed her bait shop that it was discovered Heiman’s insurance agent had accidentally transposed two of the numbers in Offshore Adventures’ street address. In letters and phone calls, he asked TWIA to correct the typo so Heiman could collect her due and rebuild the business.

The association refused. Heiman’s policy for 1590 Hwy 361 did not cover 1950 Hwy 361, representatives explained. Her claim for the money she needed to restart her bait shop was stamped “denied.”

For more on Heiman’s dilemma, and how the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association has served consumers since Hurricane Harvey, visit MyStatesman.com

Related video:

Hurricane Names for 2018

Hurricane Names for 2018

LOOK: Thief steals donation jar filled with money meant for veteran

A tip jar with almost $900 for a veteran in need was stolen right off the front counter of an auto body shop this week.

>> Watch the video here

Erving Severino, the owner of Independent Import Specialist in Lawrence, Massachusetts, said the money was being raised for a veteran in his 70s, in Puerto Rico, who lost everything during Hurricane Irma. The money was supposed to buy the man's plane ticket to the United States and pay for his health benefits. 

>> Read more trending news 

However, the jar was snatched off the counter in a matter of seconds.

Security footage shows a crystal-clear image of the suspect's face, so Severino is begging the public to identify the thief, saying he will not press charges if the money is returned. 

The veteran is expected to land in the U.S. on April 14.

Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact the Lawrence Police Department at 978-794-5900.

Irma forced mass evacuations; officials urge staying home next time

An estimated 6.8 million Floridians evacuated for Hurricane Irma. Some did so twice.

Subtle shifts in the storm’s path sent the east coast scurrying west, then fleeing north where landlocked Leon County ran out of hotel rooms and filled 10 shelters with people, half of whom were from other parts of the state.

>> Read more trending news   

Gridlock on Florida’s Turnpike meant a 20-hour trek into Georgia as lines of cars jockeyed to escape the Sunshine State, crushing traffic like an accordion against the border where driving on the shoulder was no longer allowed.

But Florida officials said about 3 million of those who left were not in evacuation zones.

Read more at MyPalmBeachPost.com

Federal funding expires Thurs. for those who fled Puerto Rico -- now what?

Nearly five months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, hundreds of evacuees are living in Massachusetts and struggling to get on their feet.

But their federal funding expires Thursday.

City councilors estimate more than 700 evacuees from Puerto Rico have settled in Worcester.

Margarita Quinana is one of those evacuees who left everything behind.

>> Read more trending news 

She said when Hurricane Maria roared over Puerto Rico, she woke up to a nightmare.

She said she tried to stay, but after living on a generator for a month the food and gas ran out and she and her family were forced to board a plane for Boston with only a few backpacks.

Now months later, she and her family of four are living out of a hotel room in Worcester.

Starting Thursday, the FEMA benefits that pay for that room have expired.

Now city and state leaders are frantically working to put together an emergency grant that can help bridge the gap.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern saw the ongoing devastation in Puerto Rico only a few weeks ago.

He’s been pushing FEMA to extend the benefits, and some evacuees now have funding until March 20.

But he said that’s only a Band-Aid.

Quinana told Boston 25 News when she found out the funding was ending it took her back to the day when the hurricane hit.

FEMA has provided many evacuees with vouchers to help them rent apartments, but a city official in Worcester said finding enough affordable housing to fill those vouchers has been a challenge.

RELATED: 

Florida Office Holding Donations For Puerto Rico Shuts Down Due To Rat Infestation

Florida Office Holding Donations For Puerto Rico Shuts Down Due To Rat Infestation

Melania Trump, Karen Pence stop at Whataburger, treat press to french fries

First lady Melania Trump, along with second lady Karen Pence, traveled to Texas on Wednesday to visit with first responders and check on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. And if there’s anything politicians (or in this case, politicians’ spouses) love to do when they’re on a visit, it’s make a stop at a purveyor of local cuisine. Trump and Pence flew through Corpus Christi, which means Whataburger.

>> Read more trending news

According to social media reports (including tweets from reporters along for the trip, as well as a White House official), the first and second lady stopped by the venerable Texas burger chain and walked out with at least some of those famous fries. The rest of their order is unknown (so far), but the tweets about the pit stop are quite a journey.

Reporters in the press pool said the first and second lady treated them to fries.

Officials in Texas approved. The orange and the white, as ever, proved to be a unifying force.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Trump and Pence stopped at the Whataburger at 602 Padre Island Drive. 

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