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Local Hazards

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MARCOA Media

Every second counts in a disaster so planning and preparation can be lifesavers. The following are considered significant hazards in Harford County.

Flash Floods

Because of its location on the Chesapeake Bay, and especially during hurricanes, areas of Harford County are prone to flooding. A flash flood watch is issued when flash flooding is expected to occur within six hours after heavy rains have ended. A flash flood warning is issued for life- and property-threatening flooding that will occur within six hours. During a flash flood watch or warning, stay tuned to local radio or TV stations or a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio for further weather information.

If you are outdoors during a rainstorm, seek higher ground. Avoid walking through any floodwaters — even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. If you are driving, avoid flooded areas. The majority of deaths in a flash flood occur when people drive through flooded areas. Roads concealed by water may not be intact. Water only a foot deep can displace a vehicle. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water can engulf a vehicle and sweep it away.

Hurricanes

In addition to thunderstorms and tornadoes, hurricanes and extreme storms — such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 — are real concerns throughout the county. Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, torrential rain, powerful winds, tornadoes and flooding.

Preparation is essential in a disaster and ­hurricane readiness should begin long before the event occurs. Download the Centers for ­Disease Control and Prevention’s “Key Facts About ­Hurricane Readiness” at http://emergency.
cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/readiness.pdf.
It combines all the key content of the CDC’s ­hurricane website into one printable file. Printing the file will ensure that you have important hurricane health and safety information available even when you’re without power or Internet service.

Sun Exposure

Some exposure to sunlight is good, even healthy, but too much can be dangerous. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet radiation, listed as a known carcinogen by the National Institute of ­Environmental Health Sciences, can cause blistering sunburns and long-term problems such as skin cancer, cataracts and immune suppression. Overexposure also causes aging of the skin.

Cloud cover reduces UV levels, but not ­completely. Depending on the thickness of the cloud cover, you can still burn on a cold and dim day. Be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreens, long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats and an umbrella.

Thunderstorms

Higher temperatures, increased humidity, slow-moving thunderstorms, lightning, sudden fierce downpours and flash flood warnings — welcome to a typical summer in Harford County. Dangerous storms with extreme winds — including “microbursts,” or punches of wind up to 120 mph — can occur over large areas. Some of these storms can quickly evolve into tornadoes. Hail, potentially as large as softballs, can be just as damaging.

For added safety during storms, remember: “When the thunder roars, go indoors.” During a lightning storm, avoid corded phones, electrical appliances, plumbing fixtures, and metal doors and windows as they may conduct electricity. The National Weather Service recommends ­following the 30/30 Rule, which states that people should seek shelter if the “Flash-to-Bang” delay — the time in seconds from a lightning flash to the sound of subsequent thunder — is 30 seconds or less and remain under cover for 30 minutes after the final thunder clap. For more information, visit the National Weather Service at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can develop quickly, with minimal warning, so it is important to have a plan in place before they occur. If a tornado watch is issued, weather conditions favor the formation of ­tornadoes, such as during a severe thunderstorm. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately during a tornado warning.

Know where the safest place of shelter is in your home — a basement, or an inside room on the lowest floor (like a closet or bathroom) if your home does not have a basement. Avoid windows and get under something sturdy, like a heavy table, and cover your body with a blanket or mattress to protect yourself from flying debris.

For more information on tornado preparedness, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes.

Winter Storms

Harford County reaches below freezing temperatures in the winter and occasionally experiences severe winter weather. Prepare for
winter storms by assembling a disaster supply
kit for your home and vehicle. Have your car ­winterized before the winter storm season arrives.
Listen to weather forecasts and plan ahead.

A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm warning means one is headed for your area. A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding snow and dangerous wind chills are expected. Avoid travel during these watches and warnings.

Winter storms can cause power outages. During
a power outage, gather in a central room with an alternative heat source like a fireplace. Be sure to keep a screen around an open flame and don’t close the damper while the ashes are still hot.

During the day, open drapes and blinds to let the sun warm the space. Close them at night to minimize heat loss. If the indoor temperature drops below 55 degrees, open faucets slightly so they constantly drip to prevent pipes from freezing.

 

For more information on winter preparedness and how to protect your home from freezing weather, visit www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter.

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