Across the U.S., severe weather is disrupting daily life. From hurricanes to heavy snow, torrential rains and flooding, cold snaps and other extremes seem to be affecting every corner of our country.
Even if severe weather hasn’t affected you directly, it serves as a reminder that we all need to be prepared should nature take a turn for the worse. The first place to start –put together an emergency kit.
Keep in mind that your emergency kit needs contain enough supplies to maintain you and your family for at least 72 hours without transportation, food, electricity, or water. Customize your kit according to needs and family size but here is a basic list to help you get started building your kit:
One gallon of water or more per day, per person.
Three days’ worth of non-perishable, ready-to-eat food. Remember the can opener!
First aid kit
Cell phone, charger, and backup battery
Flashlight with extra batteries
Personal care items such as toilet paper, soap, moist towelettes, paper towels, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer.
Tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches as you may need to turn off utilities.
A few changes of clothes, shoes, and jackets.
Important family documents in a watertight bag (or scan and store in cloud-based storage.)
Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets
Large plastic sheets and duct tape in case you need to make an emergency shelter.
Medication, extra eyeglasses, eye solution, etc.
Of course, those are just basic suggestions. There are products such as water purifiers, “space blankets,” pop-up shelters, and other innovations that you may want to consider for your kit.
Remember your pets need a kit too! Here are some ideas for a simple emergency kit for pets:
Medication and documentation for your pet
First aid kit
Non-perishable pet food
Collar and leash
Bottled water and bowl.
Where to Store Your Emergency Kit
The best place to store your kit is in a dark, dry, and cool place. Make sure everything is in an airtight, plastic container and easily accessible. Though a basement may seem like a convenient place, retrieving it in an emergency (or flood!) could make it impossible. You’ll also want to make sure that everyone in the family knows where the kit is located.
Remember to check it every year to ensure everything is still in good repair and the food has not expired.
What about your home and mortgage?
There are federal, state, and private programs that you can use to help repair your home and provide temporary housing if needed. Depending on the disaster, the location, and whether it has been declared a state of emergency, you may qualify for federal aid from FEMA. Private home and disaster insurance (this is separate from the insurance you may have on your mortgage) also provides much-needed assistance during times of disaster.
Your mortgage payments may also qualify for forbearance or partial payment. Call Tara Mortgage Services for more information.
At our office, we don’t just work with loans, we work with people –that’s why we feel it’s important that you prepare for an emergency. And please, forward this information to friends and family!
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Have a weak garage door? A severe storm can tear the door off its hinges and blow wind into your home with enough pressure to pop the roof.
When you think about protecting your home from wind damage, make sure to focus on the weak points: windows, doors, garage doors, siding and roofing. Also, don’t forget about trees that can crash onto your home or outdoor furniture that can turn into projectiles.
Take these steps to limit the amount of storm damage to your home:
1. Reinforce the garage door
High winds can blow off a garage door and damage what’s inside, potentially causing structural damage to the entire home. Consider hiring a garage door company to inspect your door to determine its ability to withstand strong winds. It’s better to make a garage door repair now before a storm arrives.
2. Cover windows and doors
Consider installing steel or aluminum storm shutters on your windows, French doors and sliding glass doors. You can close the shutters quickly to prevent flying objects from breaking glass.
3. Secure shingles
When wind blows shingles from your roof, it makes your home vulnerable to rain, creating the need for emergency roof repair. Avoid that by making sure your roofer secures shingles properly.
At least six nails or staples should hold each shingle down; roofers should install the nails or staples beneath the edges of the overlapping shingles. Also, install a waterproof underlayment beneath the shingles for protection against rain in case the wind blows the shingles off your roof.
4. Fasten metal siding and metal roofing
Damaging winds can tear away entire panels, making it easier for wind to enter the home. Contractors should secure metal roofing and siding to the frame of the home with exposed fasteners, such as screws and bolts, or with concealed clips.
Generally, space fasteners close together at the edges of the panels. Cover all siding edges, such as those along the corner of the home, with a metal cap or molding so wind can’t work its way beneath the siding.
5. Remove trees too close to the home
Make sure trees sit far enough away from your home to prevent damage if they fall. Generally, a tree should sit farther away from the home than the height of the tree when fully grown. The cost to remove a tree will depend on its size.
6. Anchor potential projectiles
Anchor storage sheds and outbuildings with a permanent foundation or straps and ground anchors. Secure smaller objects, such as grills and outdoor furniture, by bolting them to decks or patios. Use ground anchors with cables and chains. You can also move smaller objects inside if you have adequate warning before a storm.
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Amazingly, there’s over 12,000 species of ants in the world, but only a small handful of them insist on invading our homes in search of something tasty to eat. For the ants you need to control, there are some very easy, natural and effective natural methods to either ward off or remove ants from your home areas. You can neutralize ant scouts by cleaning your kitchen and storing foodstuffs in containers. You can prevent ants’ access to your home by sealing entrances with caulk, make use of barriers and deterrents, like cinnamon, and use baits, like a maple syrup sprinkled with boric acid. Should all else fail, there are natural pest exterminators who can help you with your ant problem.
MINIMIZE ACCESS FOR SCOUT ANTS
Typically the easiest way to keep your home or apartment ant-free. Keep food areas clean and neat, wash dishes as soon as you are done with them, sweep and vacuum daily, keep food sealed in containers to avoid surprise infestations, and clean, clean, clean! Scout ants take samples of food back to the rest of their crew, so the idea is to keep the scout ants as far away as possible. Early detection and prevention is imperative.
FORM DETERRENTS AND BARRIERS
If stubborn scout ants still attempt to infiltrate your living quarters, it’s time to construct a front line of defense. First, identify all entrance points and seal all holes with silicone caulk. Alternatively, you can use putty, glue or plaster. Next, get ready to arm yourself with a spray gun and some soapy water, which will both kill the ants and their chemical trail. Add citrus peels or rind oils to make the spray extra potent.
Many of the products that form natural ant barriers are probably already in your kitchen; they just need to be deployed properly. Use barriers on places like sills, floors, counters, and around ant access points. Some of the items with which you can form barriers include:
A line of chalk
Black pepper, cayenne pepper, or red chili pepper.
Vaseline (great for doors and windows)
White vinegar and water
If your ant problem doesn’t seem to be going away, set some baits. A mixture of boric acid and maple syrup is highly effective, but highly poisonous. Translation: Please be careful when using boric acid! Alternatively, certain foods like cornmeal, cream of wheat, and coffee grinds will work wonders. These foods are extremely poisonous to ants, and extremely safe for in-home use.
CALL A PROFESSIONAL
When all else fails, contact a professional. Not always the most cost effective, but saves on time and labor!
(Editor’s note: This blog was written last fall during the onslaught of flooding around the country. Due to the recent flooding, we thought this was a perfect time for a refresher.)
Flood season is almost over here in the Pittsburgh area. While we had a rougher year than normal in the Steel City and surrounding areas, our summer floods paled in comparison to the tragic events in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico. We send our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by these extreme weather events.
Seeing the damage and hearing the heartbreaking stories made me realize…I wouldn’t know what to do if I was faced with the horrendous storm. Or any storm, for that matter. I’m sure I’m not alone, either. Until we’re faced with such adversity, it’s hard to truly prepare for the unknown.
Flooding is a temporary overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop. There are many possible causes of floods including heavy rain or snowmelt, coastal storms and storm surge, waterway overflow from being blocked with debris or ice, or overflow of levees, dams, or waste water systems, Flooding can occur slowly over many days or happen very quickly with little or no warning, called flash floods.
Flooding can happen in any U.S. state or territory. It is particularly important to be prepared for flooding if you live in a low-lying area near a body of water, such as near a river, stream, or culvert; along a coast; or downstream from a dam or levee.
Flooding can occur during every season, but some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year. Coastal areas are at greater risk for flooding during hurricane season (i.e., June to November), while the Midwest is more at risk in the spring and during heavy summer rains. Ice jams occur in the spring in the Northeast and Northwest. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season.
BASIC SAFETY TIPS
Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®
Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable.
Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.
If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.
Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” (Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.)
Steps to Take
Turn on your TV/radio/phone. Sounds comical, but you will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.Prepare Your Home
Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions.
Flood Warning = “Take Action!” (Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.)
Steps to Take
Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
Evacuate if directed.
Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded.
Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.
Winter storms aren’t uncommon in the Northeast and here in Pittsburgh. One prime example is the massive storm of 2010, known as Snowmageddon.
Now in its eighth anniversary, folks are still reminiscing about the February 2010 storm that wreaked havoc in cities from the West Coast to the East Coast, but most notably the Mid-Atlantic. The storm caused more than 40 fatalities, including deaths in Mexico as well as the United States.
Pittsburgh was the first major city to experience part of the nor’easter’s heaviest snow, raking in 11.4 inches on Feb. 5 and an additional 9.7 inches on the 6th (that’s 21.1 inches in two days)!
Three days later, almost 8 more inches of snow fell over a two-day span.
Snowmageddon is currently ranked as the fourth largest snowstorm on record, just behind the March blizzard of 1993 in which 25.3 inches of snow fell.
The 2010 storm dropped heavy and wet snow on cities across the state, which caused more damage to trees and power lines compared to the infamous blizzard of 1993. Power was out for thousands of people in southwestern Pennsylvania for a week or more.
In the end, the city of Pittsburgh spent several weeks clearing out. The cost of the clean-up from Snowmageddon, as well as the storm immediately following, added up to more than $5 million.
With snow and ice in the forecast for the morning commute around the Steel City, the odds of a slippery commute are pretty high. While we won’t be looking at blizzard levels of snow (knock on wood), chances of morning irritation are still roughly 99%. Plus, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For a more detailed listing of tips and strategies, refer to our blog written back in November.
Here are some quick tips to remember, and please be safe in the morning!
BE PREPARED: Clear ice and snow off the car before you start driving. Snow left on top of the car can slide off and obstruct your vision and that of those around you. Stock the car with blankets, food and water. Don’t forget your phone, and make sure you have a full battery when you leave the house.
TAKING HILLS: Get some momentum before you start up a hill, and let it carry you to the top. Avoid hitting the gas pedal on the way up because it can cause your wheels to spin. Once you’re at the top, reduce your speed and descend slowly.
SKID RECOVERY: If your car starts to skid, steer it in the direction you want the car to go. Avoid slamming or pumping the brake pedal.
IF YOU GET STUCK: Stay with the vehicle and don’t walk outside in severe weather. Keep the dome light on, because it uses a small amount of electricity and attach brightly colored cloth to the window. Conserve gas by turning the engine on only periodically to warm the car. Again, make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow.
Snow is back in the forecast for the Western PA, which means show shoes and shovels are also back in the forecast for Western PA. We’re all about safety here at DHRE, and with winter rearing it’s ugly head once again, we thought this would be a good time to pass along a couple safety tips for when you’re shoveling snow!
Stay ahead of the snow.
Like with anything in life, the best advice is to stay ahead of the storm. To prevent snow and ice from adhering to the sidewalk or street, clear the snow every few inches instead of waiting for the snow to stop falling before you head outdoors. Getting rock salt to help melt icy and snowy areas is also a great tool, just be careful when using around animals. Many pets are VERY sensitive to rock salt.
Wear breathable layers.
Layering is typical cold winter weather advice. We suggest wearing layers of loose clothing so you can peal a layer off if you get hot. Avoid wearing heavy wools or other materials that don’t allow perspiration to evaporate.
Footwear can be crucial.
You need to pay attention to what’s on your feet when heading outdoors to shovel snow. That’s just science. Wear quality outdoor winter wear such as waterproof boots with good traction. Good traction is critical to ensuring that you don’t slip and fall. In other words, this may not be the time for your favorite pair of traction-less, holey boots.
Stretch it out.
Enter laugh track here, but shoveling snow is a workout. Stretching helps warm up your muscles so they can tackle the cold weather, and helps avoid injury and fatigue.
Push, don’t lift.
Work smart, not hard. If you push the snow to the side rather than trying to lift the snow, you exert less energy, thereby placing less stress on your body! This is also why it’s imperative to stay ahead of the storm, as mentioned earlier.
Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. You should drink water as if you were enduring a tough workout at the gym or running five miles.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Sometimes people get so focused on the task at hand, they don’t pay attention to their surroundings. When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to traffic. Vehicles may not have good traction in the snow and ice, and drivers are usually more focused on the road and not losing that traction. In any snow situation, both pedestrians and drivers alike have a more limited line of sight. Be sure to stay alert at all times. Ultimately, you have to look out for yourself.
Keep your phone on you.
We’re not suggesting that you make calls and text while shoveling snow, but it is important to have your cell phone on you so you can make a call in event of an emergency. Seriously…put the phone away and live a little. 😉
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.
Snowstorms can be beautiful. Some can be a nuisance. But here’s a way to consider some snowstorms as a friend with a message for you.
In the few days following a snowfall, when you are out for a walk, look along the road at the roofs of your home and your neighbors’ homes. Some will still be covered with snow, some will have lost it all, while some will look kind of patchy. A keen observer will notice that the patterns are pretty consistent time after time.
The patterns relate to attic insulation. If your attic has little or no insulation, the snow will disappear quickly. If your attic insulation needs a fix, the pattern will be patchy. If your attic insulation is good, the snow will stay on for a long while (and actually will add insulation to the roof, since snow is an insulator).
The best snowstorm for these observations will be one that drops about 1 inch, without wind. So, you should get outside after a gentle snowstorm to examine your roof and compare it to the neighbors.
If your roofing is asphalt shingles, the snow should stay for days unless the air temperature rises above 32 degrees. If it melts unevenly, make a note of where the bare roofing shows through first. That is likely to be a place where extra heat is escaping from your house into the attic. Remember, heat rises. Go inside and check the following:
• Recessed lighting fixtures that join living spaces to the attic are perhaps the worst culprits for heat loss. They function like straight conduits from your warm world to the outside. The best advice is to replace such lighting (try track lighting next time).
• A leaky seal to the attic entry hatch can be sealed with foam weather stripping.
• Gaps between fiberglass insulation. If the layers of insulation look thick enough, it probably would be best to hire a contractor to blow in a 2-inch layer of cellulose fiber all over the tops of the batts. This will seal up the air movement through the gaps.
• A bathroom or other vent that empties into the attic may have caused mold to build up on the attic ceiling (the roof decking). The vent should be extended to the outside of the attic and likely will require plumbing.
• Icicles that form along the bottom edge of the roof or eaves are another indication of insufficient attic insulation. Icicles, combined with an ice dam at the eaves, can cause leakage between the shingles with water dripping into your ceiling or walls. It is always best to identify and fix the cause of the problem before you have internal damage.
If you have a metal roof and its slope is 45 or more degrees, these observations are difficult because the snow generally slides off quickly. Keep looking, especially after a big snowstorm.
Here are a couple of special cases you may have to deal with:
• If your home has flat roof, you’ll need to get up on the roof. If you feel slushiness under your feet you have a problem. Under almost every flat roof, there is usually a space between the ceiling of the top floor and the roof decking itself. If you cannot get into that space, you’d be wise to cut an entry so that the space can be insulated, preferably by blown-in cellulose.
• If your home has a cathedral ceiling, once again there is a space between ceiling and roof. If it appears to have been insufficiently insulated (by the quick melting of the snow), you have a few difficult choices: You could remove the ceiling and foam the underside of the roof decking, or you could install sheets of foam externally and then re-shingle. However, there are now ceramic paints that can be applied inside to increase the insulating value of the ceiling.
Your observations and efforts will pay dividends by cutting your heating costs and increasing your comfort!