I never dreamed or thought I’d be writing this post. A couple of weeks ago devastation hit my home state. All around me the effects of natural disasters could be seen. Thankfully my town and home were spared, but some only a short distance away weren’t so fortunate. Never in my
Natural Disasters List
Before I jump into how to help after a natural disaster, let’s talk a little bit about natural disasters, how the flooding in my area happened, and how to prepare kids for natural disasters.
First off, there are many different things on the natural disasters list.
This may not be a complete natural disasters list, but many of the main ones are on here.
I have lived my entire life in what is known as Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley is an area of the United States that is more common for tornadoes. It’s a path up the midwest ranging from Texas north to South Dakota. I’ve always known I lived in tornado alley and that we needed to keep an eye out every spring for tornadoes. In all honesty, they have always fascinated me so I kind of look forward to tornado season. But I can’t say I have ever been directly affected by one. Just spent time in the basement when the sirens went off.
I have seen the devastation first hand caused by an EF3 tornado though. One June evening, a home about 30 minutes from where I live was hit by this particular tornado. At the time I was working as a home inspector. F
I bring up the fact that of all the disasters on the natural disasters list, I am used to keeping an eye out for tornadoes, but I’m not used to major flash flooding. And flooding we had.
A Bomb Cyclone Hits
The term bomb cyclone was a new one to me. And I’m sad to say I scoffed when I first saw the warnings of what was coming. There had been several times when a major storm was forecast and doomsday people on Facebook were calling for 2 feet of snow and we got maybe 3 or 4 inches. So when this so called bomb cyclone was supposed to hit, the first thought I had was “ya, right.” But it did hit and brought devastation along with it.
You might be wondering what a bomb cyclone is. And rightfully so. I did too. A bomb cyclone happens when a strong low pressure system drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The system that hit the midwest went from 994 millibars to 970 millibars in 13 hours (Winter Storm Ulmer ‘Bombs’ Out, Becomes ‘Bomb Cyclone’, Smashing Pressure Records, The Weather Channel). According to the Hurricane Glossary by SECOORA this is an equivalent of a Category 2 Hurricane. The irony in this whole situation is shortly before this system moved through I wondered what it would be like experiencing a Hurricane. Now I guess I have an idea.
The bomb cyclone caused blizzard conditions in the western part of our state and heavy rains in the east. This created the perfect storm for severe flooding. And here’s why…
The Perfect Storm for Historic Floods
So why would a storm packing a wholloping blizzard cause catastrophic flooding? It doesn’t make much sense. Until you know some of the preceding conditions. February was a harsh month. We saw above average amounts of snowfall and bitterly cold days. Even into the first week of March, the week right before the bomb cyclone. That week felt more like January than March. We had more fresh snow on the ground added to what was already there plus temperatures 40 degrees below normal.
The ground was still frozen solid. Then, in less than a week, we were getting temperatures above freezing but also decent rains. The rain added water to all the snow that was quickly melting. But the ground couldn’t soak it up because it was still frozen from the harsh winter. The water had to go somewhere and that was the many creeks and rivers around. Those riverbeds couldn’t hold all the water, plus there were ice jams that added to the problems. If you want to see more, check out these amazing pictures of the flooding from Jake Scheideler.
Dams broke, houses washed away, basements flooded, towns filled with water, farmlands were ruined, and lives were lost. But one thing emerged, heros in plain clothes.
Natural Disasters for Kids
Natural disasters for kids can be a very scary thing. They can be scary for anyone. Something that is somewhat unpredictable and so destructive can be frightening.
So the first step in taking the “scary” out of natural disasters for kids is to educate them. Teach your kids what disasters are common in your area. For us, I won’t likely teach my kids how to be safe in an earthquake or Hurricane because we just don’t experience those things here. But I will teach them about severe weather including hail, straight line winds, and tornadoes. You could teach them yourself, watch YouTube videos, or visit a local expert that would be willing to help explain things. If you are a girl scout leader this ties in well with the safety pins. However you decide to do it, teaching your kids about natural disasters in your area is important.
The second step to taking the “scary” out of natural disasters for kids is to help them be prepared. It’s important to pack an emergency preparedness kit. If you want a great guide to basic things it should contain visit Kimberlee Leonard’s article “Make a Plan: Family Emergency Preparedness” from Safer Family Alliance. Once you have your items, let your kids help pack the bag. These are the basic necessities for survival.
You could also add things to your pack to make your kids more at ease. Things like decks of cards, coloring books, a stuffed animal. These may not help you survive but if you do have a natural disaster strike and have to leave home it may help your kids feel a little more secure. So let them help you prepare by packing a bag of necessities plus a few toys and don’t forget to practice where to go if a natural disaster strikes.
During a Disaster
During a disaster, the first thing to do is to make sure you are safe. You can’t help anyone else out if you and your family are not OK first. Grab your emergency kit and get to your shelter.
When I was growing up my mom would grab a clothes basket to round up things if there was a chance for tornadoes. She would pay attention to where storms were and which direction they were headed. If they were bad enough and she knew that they were dropping tornadoes and were heading in our direction she would begin gathering things up. She’d put her purse, valuables, jewelry and a few other things she didn’t want to have ruined in the basket and take it downstairs with us. A basket or bag either works well.
If you are safe during a disaster and won’t be putting yourself in harms way you can help meet other disaster victims needs. I want to reiterate, only do this if it’s safe to. When the floods hit our area my family wasn’t directly affected. But those around us were. People had begun sandbagging around 3 pm one afternoon to protect flood waters from entering a nearby village. At 11 pm I saw a friend on Facebook post a call to help. They were still sandbagging to protect people’s homes and property. So I left home at 11:30 that night to go buy water to donate and headed up to help out. They finally quit sandbagging at 1:20 am. The next morning I saw reports that the efforts had worked and the water was averted around town.
So if you want to help during a disaster you can, just be sure you are safe doing so. And you can include the whole family (I just didn’t cause it was so late at night).
Disaster Victims Needs
Disaster victims needs vary greatly depending on the natural disaster that affected them. People affected by a tornado will likely be displaced from their home and may even need to clean up a destroyed building and rebuild. On the other hand a flood victim might be trying to dry out their basement and belongings. Whatever the disaster, generally building structures are damaged greatly and possessions are lost. So disaster victims needs are everything from a place to stay to money to a whole new home.
When the floods affected our area local first responders let everyone know what the disaster victims needs were. There were lists posted on social media and by businesses. There were funds set up to help meet the disaster victims needs as well. It didn’t take much and you could find a place to give back to.
How to Help After a Natural D
If you are wondering how to help after a natural disaster, there are a few ways to do so. You can donate money to relief efforts. In my area, several donation opportunities came up. So if you just want to donate money this is one way to do it.
Another way of answering the question of how to help after a natural disaster is to donate items. However, I would caution you to check out what the needs are. Don’t just start dumping things off to people and places. What you might think is helpful really might not be. Also, know where to take your donations. This will make your life easier.
I saw this first hand. The outpouring of people around us to the towns affected by the floods was enormous. One of the nearby towns opened up their high school for all the donations and quickly had many items donated there.
You can also help with the actual clean up efforts. The days following the flooding volunteers were needed to help clean up homes that were damaged. This is another great way of how to help after a natural disaster. Just make sure your kids are able to do it before you go. You don’t need them getting hurt and being in the way.
Hopefully that gives you some ideas of how to help after a natural disaster. But if you are looking at more creative ways to give back, here are a few.
Creative Ways to Give Back
If you are looking for more creative ways to give back here are a few.
- Organize a supply drive
- Set up a restaurant night for disaster victims
- Get your child’s scout troop involved (here is more info about starting a scout troop)
- Gather your family and go help with relief efforts
- Make sandwiches or meals for volunteers helping with clean up efforts
The Importance of Finding Out How to Help After a Natural Disaster
Now that you know some of the natural disasters on the natural disasters list, how to take the “scary” out of natural disasters for kids, and some creative ways to give back, I wanted to reiterate how important it is to find out how to help after a natural disaster.
When you find out how to help after a natural disaster and do so, you will be modeling to your kids the importance of helping a neighbor in need. Natural disaster victims find themselves suddenly, and often without warning, in a very difficult situation. The least you can do is to give back and teach your kids to do the same.
When kids learn to give back to the community it will show them how to be empathetic to other, make them a more rounded person, and show them life is more than just “me”. It give kids the opportunity to take part in something bigger than themselves. When they walk into the devastation or see what others experience it can make them grateful for the things they have. And don’t we all want our kids to have an attitude of gratitude?
Finally, when you help meet disaster victims needs as a family you are spending valuable time together. Yes, it’s great to spend time playing games, watching movies, going on vacations, and just enjoying time together. But if you spend time planning creative ways to give back as a family or just talking about what happened around you and helping in some way, that family quality time becomes even better. Your kids won’t forget it anytime soon and I bet you won’t either. It will put a positive spin on the devastation around you.
So if you find communities around you in a natural disaster situation, find out how you can help. You won’t regret it.