Last night in the Steel City, we received overnight wind gusts that were waking families, taking down electrical grids, and scaring the children…and husbands. Although extreme for our area, those winds were tame compared to severe weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, where winds can reach speeds greater than 100 miles per hour. But even winds at 25 miles per hour can damage homes and property, and we were roughly double that figure last night. Take a few simple steps to learn disaster preparedness and prepare your family and home for the possibility of severe winds.
Develop an emergency plan
Proper planning can help save your family from injury and inconvenience when severe weather strikes. Prepare your family for severe winds by creating a disaster preparedness plan, including a disaster survival kit and an emergency evacuation plan.
Getting up-to-the-minute information is an important part of staying safe in any weather emergency. When severe weather threatens, tune in to a NOAA Weather Radio or battery-powered radio for updates. A high wind advisory means that sustained winds of over 25 miles per hour are predicted. Thunderstorm, tornado, and hurricane warnings should be taken very seriously, as they mean that severe weather has been spotted and is on its way.
When severe winds occur, move to the middle of your home or basement, away from windows and glass doors. Try to take cover under a staircase or a heavy piece of furniture. Do not stay in a manufactured home during severe winds. They are easily overturned by high winds, and flying debris can puncture their light frames and exteriors.
If you live an area prone to severe winds, you may want to build a safe room in your home. A safe room is an area of your home that has been reinforced to provide protection from broken glass and flying debris. An experienced contractor can build a safe room with a reinforced roof, walls, and ceilings in a new or existing home.
Wherever you seek shelter, be sure to bring your family disaster kit with you.
If there is sufficient warning before the onset of severe winds, move garbage cans, patio furniture, grills, and other potentially wind-borne objects inside your home or garage. In the future, you may want to consider replacing gravel or rock landscaping materials with shredded bark.
Vehicles and boats are also at risk during a severe wind event. Store vehicles in a garage or other enclosure. Moor boats securely. If your boat is ashore in a jack stand, strap the boat down when possible.
When it comes to winter weather, the Steel City has been pretty fortunate in recent memory. We’ll never be known for having temperate winters (or remotely moderate), but the winters haven’t been terrible by Pittsburgh standards. But this year…
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s. Been Cold.
How cold has it been? Since Christmas, we’ve had 15 nights where the low has been in single digits. You can toss on an extra two days where the low was an exact 10 degrees, and 3 days where the low was BELOW ZERO.
It’s. Been. Cold.
Alas, when we think it’s bad, there’s always a time when conditions were much worse. On January 19th, 1994, it was much worse. Unless you consider -22°F comfortable or normal, 24 years ago today you were much colder than you are right now.
The “Blizzard of ’93” garners so much attention as one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic winter weather moments (even though it was in March), most overlook the bitter cold we experienced the year after. One day of cold temperatures can be rough, but the 1994 temperatures happened during a major cold snap. Four days in a row, the minimum temperature dropped below zero. And at the peak of 1994’s cold snap, temperatures stayed below zero for 52 straight hours. That is the longest time period on record with temperatures below zero.
Now that a heatwave of 40 degree weather is headed our way, Pittsburghers can rejoice and break out the shorts again. But don’t forget how cold it can, and probably will, get in the Steel City.
In the 2011 Brad Pitt baseball flick ‘Moneyball’, Pitt plays Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane. Beane changed the proverbial game with by using unique mathematical algorithms and trends to evaluate talent, a method he used to replace traditional statistics and “what we see with our eyes”. It was Wall Street meets the infield dirt, and his method changed the way teams evaluated and recruited players forever.
But, algorithms are just that: algorithms. There’s no way the same logic, study, strategy, and information can be used to help…let’s say, children. Right?
Not so fast, my friend!
In a world where technology is slowly taking over, the tech world is putting it’s power to good use and finding new ways of protecting our children. The same algorithms and mindset used by the Oakland Athletics back in the early 2000s (and quite frankly, most Wall Street investors), is now being used to tell if a child is in danger…including at home! I stumbled across a fascinating article discussing an 18-month study done by the New York Times here in the Steel City. The results were nothing short of amazing. Read below!
The analysis program is helping the Pittsburgh child protection agency make better judgment calls on the threat level of a complaint.
Hurley was given behind-the-scenes access to sit in with call screeners in an 18-month investigation of the Allegheny Family Screening Assessment, even accompanying social workers on family visits.
As calls come into the hotline department of the county’s Child and Youth Services, the operators must make immediate assessments of the risk level for the children in question. The Family Screening Assessment gives call screeners an extensive evaluation within minutes by working through the maze of county data that would have taken hours to untangle.
In August 2016, Allegheny County became the first jurisdiction in the United States, or anywhere else, to let a predictive-analytics algorithm — the same kind of sophisticated pattern analysis used in credit reports, the automated buying and selling of stocks and the hiring, firing and fielding of baseball players on World Series-winning teams — offer up a second opinion on every incoming call, in hopes of doing a better job of identifying the families most in need of intervention.
This kind of predictive data programs have their critics, but according to Hurley, the Allegheny County assessment is working in the right direction.
“Given the early results from Pittsburgh, predictive analytics looks like one of the most exciting innovations in child protection in the last 20 years,” says Brett Drake, a professor in the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. As an author of a recent study showing that one in three United States children is the subject of a child-welfare investigation by age 18, he believes agencies must do everything possible to sharpen their focus.
Even as a new tool, the algorithm continues to be updated and retooled to continue to improve its effectiveness. The program’s accuracy at predicting bad outcomes has already been raised to more than 90 percent from around 78 percent at its beginning.
High water pressure is major cause of leaks, pipe damage, and wasted water. We’re going to give you some tips to help you detect it, prevent it, and fix it. While some might consider high water pressure a good thing, water pressure that is too high can cause annoying and expensive damage. Symptoms of water pressure induced problems include leaks in multiple fixtures in the home, leaks that only appear intermittently – like at night, and toilets running occasionally without being used.
The most common source of excessive water pressure is the municipal water supplier. The water company sets the pressure to meet their own needs, such as delivering water to fire hydrants, high elevation buildings (or tall ones), and other reasons. This water pressure is often well over 100 psi, and too often over 150 psi. However, the maximum recommended pressure for a residence is 80 psi.
You can easily test your water pressure with a gauge, such as the one pictured here, that screws on to a hose bibb. These are usually inexpensive (less than $10) at the home center. A fancier one will have needles that can be reset and will record the pressure range, allowing you to see what happens to the pressure when you aren’t watching (such as overnight). They will usually cost around $25.
A pressure regulator for each property ensures that the pressure coming from the municipal supply is reduced to a safe pressure. If the regulator is placed at the meter, instead of just at the entrance to the building, then the regulator will also act to protect the supply line to the house and the many parts of the properties irrigation system. An added benefit of regulating the pressure to the irrigation system is that it will help to reduce misting, thereby increasing the efficiency of the irrigation system – saving water and money. See my video below on how to install one. Unfortunately, like any other mechanical device, water pressure regulators don’t last forever. If you are experiencing the symptoms above and you already have a pressure regulator, it’s worth testing your water pressure again, to see if the regulator is operating properly.
Excessive water pressure can also be a result of thermal expansion of the water within the home, even when the pressure entering the water supply is within the desired range. You home’s plumbing spends most of its time as a closed container. Then, as the water heater heats the water, it expands slightly causing an increase in pressure. A thermal expansion tank within the home’s water system absorbs these slight volume changes and prevents pressure fluctuations that can cause system damage.
It’s also important to understand that water is a dynamic fluid with mass. When it is stopped suddenly, the mass of the water has a “hammer” effect that greatly increases the force of the water over that of its static pressure. Just like a one-pound hammer exerts a much greater force when it comes to a sudden stop at the top of a nail; the force of the water hammer effect may cause pipe joints to break, valves to leak, and over time and repeated occurrences, parts to succumb to the force of the water.
The undeniable feeling of playoff football is back in the Steel City air. The Black and Gold are heading into this weekend’s divisional round with lofty expectations and a couple targets in mind: the Jaguars, Tom Brady, and whoever is fortunate enough to emerge as the NFC Champion. (We’re not overlooking you, Titans fans, but we will get to you later.)
Now it’s time for our annual, “let’s not look too far ahead” post. Some of the NFL’s wildest finishes have eminated from the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Games like The Tuck Rule and The Immaculate Reception to name a few. But, there was a particular contest Steeler fans simply remember as “The Act”. Or “The Flop”. Or the most accurate name, “(expletive deleted)”.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we take you to the 2002 AFC Divisional Round matchup between our Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Oiler…I mean…Tennessee Titans. Relive one of the worst calls in NFL playoff history. A call so bad, the league felt obligated to write the Steelers organization an apology letter.
And killing two birds with one stone, in the spirit of award season, sit back and enjoy both the nominee and winner for “Best Acting by a Placekicker or Punter in a Playoff Drama”: Joe Nedney.
First, The Steelers need to get past Jacksonville this weekend. But if they do, I’m certain the Steelers’ faithful would prefer to send Tom Terrific home for the winter. But, Titans fans: we haven’t forgotten. And probably wouldn’t mind a little revenge. The reality is…our three Super Bowl appearances and two championships since “The Act” have helped ease the pain and helped us realize you needed that win more than we did anyway. 😉