Know Before™ – Monsoon 101

Monsoons happen in several locations around the world, including along the Brazilian coast of South America, in Sub-Sahara Africa, across northern Mexico and the Desert Southwest of the U.S. The most famous monsoon occurs in India and Bangladesh, where devastating drought and flooding is influenced by the shifting and unpredictable nature of the monsoon.

Monsoon Clouds Over Bangladesh. (NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr)

Monsoon Clouds Over Bangladesh. (NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr)

The word “monsoon” is derived from an Arabic word meaning season. It is defined as a seasonal wind that shifts direction from season to season and often brings abundant rain and thunderstorms during one time of the year and hot, dry weather at other times.

 

Planning Ahead

The best way to avoid the lightning, flash floods and other dangerous conditions that monsoons bring is by not being in danger in the first place. Stay up-to-date on current weather events on WeatherBug.com, your local news on TV or the internet. If traveling, be sure to research your destination and plan accordingly!

 

Make a Disaster Supply Kit

Every family should prepare a family disaster supply kit in the event of severe weather conditions. Your kit should contain essential items such as food, water and clothing to sustain your family for up to 3 days since electric power, gas and water services could be interrupted.

Here are some things to remember to include:

  • Three gallons of water in clean, closed containers for each person and pet
  • First aid kit
  • A supply of food that requires no cooking or refrigeration
  • Portable and working battery-operated radio, flashlights, and extra batteries (candles and oil lamps are fire hazards)
  • Necessary medications
  • Back-up power source for life support or other medical equipment that requires electricity to function

 

Flash Flood Safety

Many government agencies, such as the National Weather Service, issue alerts for flash flood threats. Be sure to download the free WeatherBug app – you’ll receive these warnings (plus warnings for other severe weather threats) so you Know Before™. Local law enforcement and fire departments pre-deploy response teams into areas that are known to become inaccessible during heavy rain and runoff conditions. When driving, look for the signs they’ll put up and be sure to obey their instructions.

More deaths each year occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard because people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles that are swept downstream.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If you live in a flood prone area have an evacuation plan.
  • Avoid camping in a wash or in the bottom of a canyon with steep side slopes.
  • Do not let children play near storm drains or washes after a heavy rain.
  • Store materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber for protection from floodwaters and to make quick repairs after a severe storm.
  • Store vital materials above flood levels.
  • Secure wanted objects to prevent them from floating away.
  • Learn where to find high ground, which is safe from flooding. In a flash flood seek high ground quickly.
  • Contact an insurance agent to discuss flood insurance coverage. Flood losses are not covered under normal homeowners’ insurance policies. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program. Get coverage early-there is a waiting period before it takes effect.

If you’re driving during flood conditions, follow these safety tips:

  • Driving around barricades is illegal and dangerous.
  • Avoid low-water crossings.
  • Be especially cautious at night. Flood dangers are much more difficult to see in the dark.
  • Even a less serious urban flood can be dangerous. Driving too fast through standing water can cause a car to hydroplane. The best defense is to slow down or pull well off the road (with the lights off) for a few minutes to wait out heavy rains.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
  • Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
  • Do not park a vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
  • Roadbeds may be washed out under floodwaters. Never drive through flooded roadways.
  • If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
  • If a traffic signal is out, treat the intersection as a 4-way stop.
  • As little as ten inches of water can float average-sized cars, mini-vans, SUVs and trucks. Strength of the flow is the critical force.
  • When in doubt, wait it out, or find a safer route.

 

Lightning Safety

Monsoons can bring intense thunderstorms, so lightning is a risk to be aware of. Spark™, the exclusive lightning detection feature in the free WeatherBug app, will tell you exactly how close lightning is to you. When Spark™ tells you lightning is 10 or less miles away, it is time to get indoors. As long as Spark™ is in a red state, it is not safe to be outdoors.

Watch the short Spark™ 101:

 

Indoor safety tips:

  • Never touch wiring during a thunderstorm. It’s too late to unplug electronics if thunder is heard.
  • Corded phones are dangerous during thunderstorms. Lightning traveling through telephone wires has killed people. Cell phone and cordless phones are safe.
  • Wait to use any plumbing-sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Plumbing can conduct electricity from lightning strikes from outside.
  • Unplug expensive electronics including TV, stereo, home entertainment centers, and computers modem lines when thunderstorms are expected, and before the storm arrives. Typically, summer thunderstorms form in the early to mid-afternoon, when most people are at work.
  • Stop playing video games connected to the TV.

Outdoor safety tips:

No place outside is safe from lightning during a thunderstorm. When a storm approaches go to a nearby building or a fully-enclosed metal-topped vehicle. Bring pets indoors. Lightning and thunder are very scary for pets, and they are likely to panic or even run away to try and escape the storm.

 

Power Outages

Power and communications outages can be widespread and commonly last longer than a thunderstorm. Be prepared and ready for outages by taking precautions and actions to maximize your safety!

If you’re indoor:

  • Stay at home.
  • Use a cell phone. Cordless phones do not work without electricity. Use corded phone only for emergencies.
  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment before the storm arrives. You may want to invest in a surge protector for expensive equipment.
  • Turn off electric appliances that were on before power was lost. Leave one light on as an indicator for when power is restored.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed — food will stay fresh up to 8 hours.
  • If the power is out for less than two hours, do not open the refrigerator or freezer. This will help food to stay cold. For a power outage lasting longer than two hours, pack cold and frozen foods into coolers. As a general rule, perishable foods should not be held over 40 degrees for more than two hours.
  • During a thunderstorm, turn off the AC unit. Power surges from lightning can overload units, leading to costly repair bills.

If you’re outdoor:

  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Call 911 to report downed power lines.
  • If a power line comes into contact with your vehicle, remain inside the vehicle until help arrives. Do not attempt to get out of the vehicle – that is the safest place for you to be. By stepping out of the vehicle, your body can become the pathway for electricity to reach the ground, causing severe bodily harm and possibly electrocution.

 

Dust Storms

Straight lines winds in any thunderstorm can lift huge clouds of dust and reduce visibility to near zero in seconds, which can quickly result in deadly, multi-vehicle accidents on roadways. They are more common during the early part of the monsoon, but can occur at any time during the season, depending on rainfall patterns. Dust storms usually last a few minutes, and up to an hour at most — stay where you are until the dust storm passes.

If you encounter a dust storm, and cannot avoid driving into it: Pull off the road if you can do so safely. Turn off your headlights and taillights. Put your vehicle in “PARK,” and/or engage your parking brake, and take your foot off the brake (so your brake lights are not illuminated.) Other motorists may tend to follow tail lights in an attempt to get through the dust storm, and may strike your vehicle from behind.

 

Stay Safe. Know Before™.

- The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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