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Hurricane Matthew: 9 things to do for your family's hurricane plan

1. Determine your risk: It is important to stay informed during severe weather.

National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb posted a blog in June with some interesting comments he hears every year, including, “I’ve lived here for decades and we’ve never had a hurricane. I figure I’m good.”

What do they say afterward? “No one told me it could be this bad.”

>> Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm approaches the East Coast

2. Develop an evacuation plan: Review the FEMA evacuation guidelines here.   

3. Get an insurance check-up: AAA suggests that you round up your recordsfigure out flood insurance and ensure you're covered. Also, make an inventory of your assets and their values.

4. Shop for supplies: You'll need canned food, bottled water and batteries. Click here for a slideshow shopping list of things your family could use during severe weather.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

5. Strengthen your home: Improve the strength of your roof deck attachment, install hurricane-rated window shutters, replace a standard garage door with a hurricane-rated garage door, and secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. Read more preparedness tips here.

6. Keep a list of emergency contact information: Learn more about making a family emergency communication plan here.

7. Fill up your gas tank.

>> Read more trending stories

8. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

9. Before the power goes out: Fill your bathtub with water unless you have young children. The water can be used for drinking, washing and flushing the toilet. Water supplies are often compromised by hurricanes and either become undrinkable or stop flowing.

How to protect yourself from price gouging during Hurricane Matthew

There are always people who look to profit from emergency situations.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office has information on price gouging during a state of emergency and how residents can protect themselves ahead of Hurricane Matthew's landfall.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Florida Monday in preparation for the hurricane. 

Price gouging is selling essential commodities, dwelling units or self-storage facilities “for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency,” the Attorney General's Office said.

>> 5 hacks to keep your smartphone charged during a power outage

Essential commodities include food, ice, gas and lumber, the office said.

Non-essential items, including alcohol and cigarettes, are not covered under Florida price-gouging statutes.

"Florida consumers need to be diligent during this state of emergency to ensure they do not become victims of price gouging," Attorney General Pam Bondi said. "Taking advantage of consumers during a declared state of emergency is not only reprehensible, it is illegal and will not be tolerated."

>> 'Creepy' skull satellite image of Hurricane Matthew has people freaking out

Those found in violation of Florida price gouging statutes can be fined $1,000 per violation and up to $25,000 for multiple violations during the same 24-hour period. 

To avoid being a victim of price gouging during an emergency, the Attorney General's Office recommends being prepared ahead of time.

>> Central Florida cruises rerouted because of Hurricane Matthew

To help avoid price gouging, have the following items on hand:

  • 5 gallons of drinking water per person in your household
  • At least two working flashlights
  • A portable radio
  • A telephone with a cord. If the electrical power is lost, a cordless telephone will not work
  • An ample supply of batteries to power those and other items
  • A full tank of propane and charcoal if you have a charcoal grill
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Formula and diapers, if you have young children in the home

Though not essential, board games, books and playing cards are also recommended to pass the time during a storm or other emergency, the office said.

>> Read more trending stories

Residents who believe that they have been the victim of price gouging can call the Attorney General’s price gouging hotline at 866-966-7226 or visit myfloridalegal.com.

Devastating photos show aftermath of deadly Italian earthquake

A deadly earthquake struck central Italy on Wednesday, killing dozens and reducing buildings to rubble, according to Italian media.

>> PHOTOS: Deadly earthquake leaves Italian town in ruins

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, centered about 105 miles northeast of Rome, had a magnitude of 6.2, while Italy's geological service said it had a magnitude of 6.0, according to The Associated Press.

>> Read more trending stories

One mayor said his entire town was left in ruins.

"The town isn't here anymore," said Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice.

Read more here.

>> Click here or scroll down to see heartbreaking photos from the scene

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/strong-earthquake-hits-central-italy/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/strong-earthquake-hits-central-italy.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Strong earthquake hits central Italy" on Storify]

Dramatic videos show how Louisiana's historic floods have devastated communities

Historic floods have hit southern Louisiana, leaving tens of thousands in shelters, 40,000 homes destroyed and at least 13 dead.

>> PHOTOS: Thousands rescued from 'historic' Louisiana floods

Caskets have been seen floating down streets.

>> Caskets float down Louisiana streets after historic floods

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has classified the flooding as a once-in-every-500-years event.

>> Louisiana flooding: What is a 500-year flood and why is it happening so much?

Amid the devastation, there have been glimpses of humanity.

>> Read more trending stories

Frank Relle wrote on Facebook:

"I went out to the flooded areas yesterday because I have a boat and I thought I could help. I found without proper planning, good information and coordination with local government agencies my efforts like those of countless other rescue boats ended in frustration and disaster sight seeing that put ourselves as rescuers in harms way. It’s tough wanting to help so badly and not really being prepared to do so. The destruction to people’s property was mind boggling but the overwhelmingly positive human spirit and desire to help others made a bigger impact on me. Today I’ve tried to organize and share information for rescue efforts. I hope it did some good and hope everyone who is still struggling with this crisis finds peace and some security soon. ‪#‎laflood‬ thanks @mahyowie for always being up for anything."

>> Click here or scroll down to see the videos

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/dramatic-videos-show-how-floods-have-devastated-so/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/dramatic-videos-show-how-floods-have-devastated-so.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Dramatic videos show how Louisiana's historic floods have devastated communities" on Storify]

Louisiana flooding: What is a 500-year flood and why is it happening so much?

As  of Wednesday morning, 11 people have died and more than 40,000 homes have been damaged in ongoing flooding  in southeastern Louisiana.

Up to two-and-a-half feet of rain that swelled rivers and swamped the area in and around Baton Rouge, La., has led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to classify the flooding as a once-in-every-500-years event.

Obviously, by definition, the events are rare – except this is the eighth time one of the 500-year events has happened in the United States in a little more than 12 months.

>>READ MORE: Got a question about the news? Read more Explainers here

Six states – Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland and Oklahoma --  have all had unprecedented rainfall events that, according to NOAA research, they should have only had a less than one percent chance of experiencing in any given year. 

So what is a 500-year flood and why are they happening more frequently? Here’s a quick look at what the historic rainfall means.

What is a 500-year flood?

The U.S. government, when creating the National Flood Insurance Program, used a measure called the 1-percent annual exceedance probability flood (AEP) to estimate the chance of repeat flooding of a certain level  in a certain area. The AEP defines a flood that, statistically, has a 1-in-100 chance of  being equaled or surpassed in any one year, thus the term “100-year flood” was born. The 500-year flood” is equal to an AEP of 0.2 percent, or a 1-in-500 chance an area will see a repeat of flooding at a certain level. 

In some areas of Louisiana, the flooding is being classified as a 1000-year-event – or an 0.1 percent chance of seeing flooding like that in any given year.

How are flood risks determined?

Scientists and engineers take annual measurements of the strength of the flow of a body of water and the peak height of the water as recorded by devices called streamgages. These devices are placed in spots along a river. They use those numbers, collected over time, to determine the probability (or chance) that a river will exceed those measurements during any given year.

Does a 500-year flood really mean that a flood of that type happens only once every 500 years?

No, not exactly. We are talking math. The term means  that, statistically, there is a 1-in-500 chance that an area will have a large flood in any given year. You could have a large flood two years in a row, but, chances are, you won’t. 

Why are we seeing eight such floods in the U.S. in a little over a year then? Does climate change have anything to do with it?

Climate scientists sure think it does. Many say they believe that global warming has everything to do with it and say we can look forward to more of these events. They have warned that warming temperatures on both land and sea, and the build-up of moisture in the atmosphere, will inevitably cause more large flooding events.

“We have been on an upward trend in terms of heavy rainfall events over the past two decades, which is likely related to the amount of water vapor going up in the atmosphere,” said Dr Kenneth Kunkel, of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, told The Guardian.

“There’s a very tight loop – as surface temperatures of the oceans warm up, the immediate response is more water vapor in the atmosphere. We’re in a system inherently capable of producing more floods.”

David Easterling told The New York Times that the flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models. Not just in the U.S. but in many other parts of the world as well.” Easterling is a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is operated by the NOAA.

Sources: NOAA; The New York Times; The Guardian; The Associated Press; The National Weather Service

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