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Top 5 Weather Emergencies Facing the Midwest

The Midwest is the second largest region of the United States, encompassing North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, and Missouri. According to the Red Cross, residents of the Midwest are most susceptible to tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. 

As is the case with all weather emergencies, you’ll want to begin gathering supplies to create an emergency preparedness kit. Keep essentials on hand year round like water, non-perishable foods, and a first-aid kit. If you are in a drought-prone region, stock up on extra water when possible. Weather emergencies also always come with the risk of a power outage. Think about the last time you lost power, and decide if your household could benefit from a backup battery power source. The HomePower ONE is compatible with a wide range of household appliances, like the refrigerator and lighting, and can charge your electronic devices to keep you in communication with family and the community. 

The HomePower ONE portable power station powers a laptop, cell phone, and modem in a living room.

Here are some more tips to help you prepare for each type of weather event that can hit your area.

1. Tornadoes

The United States experiences more than 1000 tornadoes each year. Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can happen at any time, and anywhere, destroying buildings, flipping cars, and creating flying debris that can severely injure or kill. Tornadoes are known for their typical funnel shape and bring intense winds over 200 mph. While you should always pay attention to local weather forecasts in case a tornado is predicted, it is also helpful to know and understand the warning signs yourself. Some prominent signs of a tornado include a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar similar to a freight train.

A tornado funnel travels on a road.

Educate yourself on how your county or community warns residents about tornadoes. Most tornado-prone areas utilize a siren system for both tornado watches and warnings. A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of a tornado, like during a severe thunderstorm. During a tornado watch you should pay special attention to local news stations and be prepared to take shelter at a moment’s notice. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel has actually been sighted or indicated by weather radar. In this case, you need to immediately take shelter. 

2. Thunderstorms

Since tornadoes are so commonly accompanied by thunderstorms, begin to pay close attention to changing weather conditions during a storm. A severe thunderstorm watch means a severe thunderstorm is possible in your area, while a warning means one is currently occurring. 

Although often chalked up to being a normal weather event or any day occurrence, thunderstorms can be just as dangerous as any other weather event. Even when a storm is not categorized as a hurricane, you can still experience complications like fallen trees, live wires, and power outages. In fact, lightning is a leading cause of injury and possibly death from weather-related events.

Powerful rain and lightning town down on a dry area of land.

Lightning strikes and rumbling thunder may often start well before rain hits your area, oftentimes 30 minutes. You may also experience winds of up to 50 miles per hour, flash flooding, hail, and tornadoes. Find out if your area has an emergency alert system that will let you know when a storm is coming and weather conditions being reported nearby. The most common cause of injury during a storm is someone ignoring or never hearing the weather alerts. If a storm is coming, clear hazards from your yard and find safe shelter.

3. Earthquakes  

If you live in Illinois or Missouri, you may at some point experience an earthquake. An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks deep underneath the earth’s surface. The National Earthquake Information Center locates about 12,000-14,000 earthquakes each year, with magnitude 2 and smaller earthquakes occurring several hundred times a day world wide. Major earthquakes, greater than magnitude 7, happen more than once per month. 

Assess the structural soundness of your home and consider making improvements sooner rather than later. Similarly, identify any objects inside your home that could become a hazard, like heavy bookshelves or glass objects, and secure them. Next, evaluate which room of your house would be safest to shelter in, or the safest part of each room of your home. The safest area of your home would be away from glass, hanging objects, heavy cabinets, and other large furniture. A room without ceiling light fixtures like chandeliers and exposed shelving is also safest. Contrary to popular belief, do not stand in doorways. If driving, pull over and set your emergency parking brake.

4. Wildfire 

Each year since 2000 has seen an average of 71,300 wildfires. These fires burn an average acreage of 6.9 million. Wildfires are unplanned and burn in areas like forests, grasslands, and prairies. Like any fire, wildfires spread quickly and can destroy not only natural areas, but residential homes and communities, as well.

A suburban street is shown with wildfire flame's illuminated behind the homes.

There are some key terminologies that you should be aware of if you live in a wildfire-prone area of the country. A Fire Weather Watch means you should start preparing for the event of a wildfire. A watch signifies that critical weather conditions are possible, though not imminent. Extreme Fire Behavior alerts you that fires are likely to rage out of control. These types of fires are difficult to predict because they can be erratic and dangerous. A Red Flag Warning means you need to take action, like being extremely careful with open flames. This alert would signify that wildfires are ongoing or imminent.

Consider using fire-resistant materials wherever possible in your home. Be sure to have an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property, in the case you need to prevent or put out flames. Within at least 30 feet of your home, remove any debris or combustible materials like dead branches or fallen leaves. Make sure your roof and gutters are clean and branches are not hanging over the roof or chimney. Since wildfires are so unpredictable, learn and practice all your evacuation zones.

5. Drought 

The US Drought Portal tracks each state’s, county’s, and town’s current drought conditions. As of November 2020, 16.3% of the US was experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Almost 14% of the country was experiencing a moderate drought, while 10% and 11% were experiencing severe and extreme droughts, respectively. If your community is experiencing a drought, your local news and community will alert you of the severity and what steps to take when the time comes. 

You can do your part in preventing the long-term effects of a drought in your community. Evaluate the plumbing in your home for potential leaks. Check the backs of cabinets for signs of mold or mildew and monitor your monthly water bill for signs of gradual increase, which can mean an unnoticed leak. Don’t let a dripping faucet go unfixed, even if you aren’t bothered by its presence. One drop of water per second from a leaking faucet wastes 2700 gallons of water every year. 

Summary

Educating yourself on the types of weather events that hit the Midwest can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed when the time comes that you are facing one. Begin preparing an emergency supply kit, identify potential hazards in or around your home, and learn evacuation routes and places of shelter. Practice all safety plans with your whole household so you’re all prepared, no matter when you’re affected. Since power outages are common with these types of weather events, consider purchasing an emergency generator like the HomePower ONE or SolarPower ONE


About Generark: Generark is the most reliable source of emergency backup power for your home and community. From the HomePower ONE power station providing portable access to electricity, to the SolarPower ONE as a source for recharging, never be disconnected from what matters most to you. Learn more about how Generark and its industry-leading 5-year limited warranty can bring protection and security to your family on our website. Never face a power outage alone with a backup battery generator and solar panel from Generark. 

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