Tag Archives: hurricanes

Climate Change Takes a Toll on the American Red Cross with Extreme Weather-Related Disasters

In November 2011, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that confirmed a link between extreme weather-related disasters like hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and other storms, to climate change. This was the first time that the IPCC emphasized this link in an official report based on the consensus of over 200 scientists. One of the lead authors of the report is also a director at theRed Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre.  The Red Cross confirmed that the findings of the IPCC reflect what the Red Cross has observed:

‘The Red Cross warned that disaster agencies were already dealing with the effects of climate change in vulnerable countries across the world. “The findings of this report certainly tally with what the Red Cross Movement is seeing, which is a rise in the number of weather-related emergencies around the world,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red  Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre and coordinating lead author of the IPCC report. “We are  committed to responding to disasters whenever and wherever they happen, but we have to  recognize that if the number of disasters continues to increase, the current model we have for responding to them is simply impossible to sustain.”’ – from The Guardian, Nov. 17, 2011http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/17/ipcc-climate-change-extreme-weather

The Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre published a related report for policy-makers in light of this new information about extreme weather-related disasters and preparing for climate change. For the Summary for Policy Makers of the new Special Report on Extremes (Nov. 2011), visit: http://www.climatecentre.org/site/news/329/summary-for-policy-makers-of-the-new-special-report-on-extremes-srex

For Strange Wetlands, I sought the first-hand perspective of Allen Crabtree, a volunteer for the Public Affairs division of the American Red Cross. Mr. Crabtree has volunteered with the Red Cross since Katrina. He has identified many human interest stories and interviewed those affected by floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme-weather disasters. In the past year, the Red Cross deployed Mr. Crabtree to cover the stories of Hurricane Irene and related flooding events in Vermont and the Mississippi River floods, and the tornadoes in South Carolina.

Mr. Crabtree arrives on the scene immediately after a hurricane, tornado, flood or forest fire has hit. Often he is deployed “pre-landfall,” before a hurricane has come ashore. It’s his job to get the word out to people –let them know where the Red Cross shelters and other services are located, to help prepare people for a disaster and to contact the media. He’s been known to set his laptop up and report via Skype with a hurricane raging around him. The Red Cross makes use of social media, too, to spread the news—over Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. However, social media can be a way for rumors to spread, for example, when the Mississippi River floods occurred, there was a false rumor posted on Twitter about the Red Cross offering a particular service; but these social media outlets are closely monitored, and rumors are quickly squashed.

Extreme weather-related disasters are expensive and the Red Cross uses footage of the storms, the damage and the people in shelters, to raise funds for their efforts. But Mr. Crabtree’s first love—writing stories—is what drives him to reach out to people. Thinking back on the Mississippi River floods, Mr. Crabtree said, “The sad thing about floods is that they are a slow-moving disaster. When do you evacuate? Afterwards, it makes a slow retreat as the water levels return to normal.” Unlike a tornado with its fast path of destruction, a flood, or even a hurricane, can continue to damage communities and wreak havoc long after the onset of the storm. Mr. Crabtree has written about some of the “success stories” among the Red Cross shelters during the Mississippi River floods and other storms this year, stories, he says, about “people picking themselves up in the face of a lot of impediments. They are a shining example of the resilience of people.” Read Allen Crabtree’s stories here on the Red Cross website via the links below the photo.

Red Cross Reaches Out to Aid Vermont Flood Family (Vermont flood, September 2011)

Red Cross Shelters Residents of Transvale Acres in Flooded Conway, NH (2011)

“What do I do after the flood?” (North Dakota, 2011)

Red Cross is here for the Long Haul(Mississippi River floods, 2011)

Disaster Can Change Someone’s Life in Seconds (North Carolina tornado, 2011)

Video, News Channel 8: Interview with Allen Crabtree on the Joplin tornado (June 2011)

Strong Waters, Stronger Friendships(Missouri floods, 2008)

Chasing Storms – Don’t Try This at Home

Hurricane season is heating up. NOAA’s National Weather Service warned in May that this might be one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record with over 20 named storms.http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml The bands of warm water moving from the coast of Africa to the Caribbean have meteorologists on the look-out for particularly violent storms. Tropical storm Alex is one of the most recent hurricanes being tracked
http://www.stormpulse.com/hurricane-alex-2010 right now. This means the onslaught of storm surge upon coastal areas. Bring forth the storm chasers!

Although storm chasers have varied backgrounds from journalism to meteorology, they share a passion for studying the phenomenon of storms such as hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, lightning and nor’easters. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/imax/weather.html An “extreme weather journalist” captures the storm on film, while a meteorologist tracks statistics used to predict future storm activity, for example, where and when the next storm will hit and any possible effects on the landscape.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/imax/stormchasers.html Sometimes a storm chaser will do both of those things. Storm chasers are equipped with the gear and knowledge to forecast the unpredictable and go to the hotspots in high winds or other extreme weather conditions. America’s top storm chaser, Warren Faidley earned the nickname, “CycloneCowboy” for his award-winning photographs and coverage of storms. Faidley has chased category 5 hurricanes, monsoonshttp://www.stormchaser.com/ and tornadoes.

Most people think of tornadoes or the movie, Twister, when they hear “storm chaser.” The Discovery Channel’s hit TV show, Storm Chasers, features a number of “chase teams”http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/storm-chasers/ with an emphasis on tornadoes. However, not all storm chasers are among the ‘tornado paparazzi’ — and beware the media’s portrayal of irresponsible and reckless behavior, which can give the profession a bad name. Here are some exciting videos taken by professional storm chasers in hurricanes:http://www.ultimatechase.com/hurricane_video.htm Here’s Jim Edds’ extreme weather coverage website: http://www.extremestorms.com/ with videos here:http://www.youtube.com/photog481 Storm Chasing Mikey covers a nor’easter in Chesapeake Bay http://stormchasingmikey.blogspot.com/ Cyclone Jim’s page is here:http://www.cyclonejim.com/ Also check out Jim Reed’s book, Hurricane Katrina: Through the Eyes of Storm Chasers http://www.amazon.com/Hurricane-Katrina-Through-Storm-Chasers/dp/1560373776

What can storm chasers teach us about wetlands? Storm chasers offer a unique perspective; whereas most people have to flee an area under siege during a hurricane, such as Katrina, storm chasers put themselves in harm’s way to document the event.  Offshore detectors with solar panels and various sensors for tracking water levels and tidal currents are used to assist meteorologists with storm predictionhttp://www.sutron.com/project_solutions/TCOON_project_profile.html and LiDAR data is used to map and analyze coastal storm activity. Storm chasers can offer first-hand accounts to help scientists compare storm surge effects on the landscape and the role of coastal wetlands as protection against storms. A rule of thumb is that each 2.7 miles of marsh knocks down the storm surge by 1 foot.http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/surge_wetlands.asp Here’s an interesting article from Physics Today on the science of storm surges and the role of coastal wetlands, in which the authors suggest new storm surge models that could be useful in a future that includes sea level rise and possible loss of wetlands (Resio and Westerink 2008) http://www.nd.edu/~coast/reports_papers/2008-PHYSICSTODAY-rw.pdf

Chasing storms is dangerous and sometimes life threatening. Let’s leave it to the professionals. There are ways to learn about basic storm principles safely. For classroom activities (geared for science teachers), go to:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/imax/activity.html Everyone else can watch the exciting video footage!