severe weather

IEMA: First-Ever America’s PrepareAthon! To Be Held On April 30

There’s no better time than right now to prepare for those nasty spring-early summer storms we get on a regular basis here in the Chicago area and elsewhere in the state, in addition to other severe weather events that might descend upon us in the coming twelve months. To help spur Illinoisans into action, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency issued a press release yesterday regarding a nationwide emergency preparedness event that’s scheduled to take place a week from today. From the release:

IEMA Encourages Participation in ‘America’s PrepareAthon!’ on April 30
First National Day of Action Expected to Draw Millions of Participants

SPRINGFIELD – On April 30, millions of people are expected to take part in the first-ever America’s PrepareAthon!, a national day for preparedness actions sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies throughout the state are encouraging individuals, families, businesses, schools, community organizations and others to be part of the event by participating in a preparedness activity related to tornadoes or floods.

For its part, IEMA will conduct a tornado drill for 120 employees in its largest workplace in Springfield. The five-story building houses more than half of the agency’s employees and was damaged when tornadoes struck Springfield on March 12, 2006. IEMA will conduct tornado drills at its other facilities at later dates to ensure employee preparedness.

“Tornadoes and floods are two hazards we know well in Illinois,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “But just recognizing these hazards isn’t enough. It’s even more important to take action to prepare for those hazards. The national day of action on April 30 provides an excellent opportunity for people, businesses, schools and others to practice their plans.”

America’s PrepareAthon! is a new nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted twice a year. Nearly five million people already are registered to participate in the April 30 national day of action, which will focus on four specific hazards: floods, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes. Since wildfires and hurricanes aren’t major hazards in Illinois, state activities will focus on floods and tornadoes.

The fall PrepareAthon! national day of action is set for September 30 and will focus on earthquakes, hazardous materials, pandemic flu and severe winter weather.

Anyone interested in participating in America’s PrepareAthon! can register on FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov. The site includes informational resources to help plan and conduct events.

Chicago Storm

Storm rolling into my old Chicago NW side neighborhood

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Go-To Gear For When The Lights Go Out

Last Friday night, my girlfriend and I lost power at our place in the Chicago suburbs.

It’s not like there was a storm going on. Not even a breeze from what I could tell. The electricty just went sayonara without any warning.

Rather than freak out- this subdivision sure is dark without any lights (the same holds true even with light )- I did what I usually do when an event like this happens nowadays:

Bust out some emergency gear.

I recently realized that I’ve never really gone into detail about the items I use when the lights go out. So, I’ll talk about them this afternoon, assuming a scenario where I lose power at night.

The first item I grab in such a situation is my Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp, Black, which I picked up from the local Cabelas a few years back. From the Princeton Tec website:

When applied well, technology should be simple. Such is the case with the innovative Fuel headlamp – designed to meet the widest range of applications while remaining small, lightweight and robust. With all of the touch points of the product being considered, the Fuel’s smart design fulfills technology’s promise of actually making our lives easier.

What could be better than a light that weighs only 78g with 70 lumens of brightness and 146 hours of burn time? A light that also has an asymmetrical single arm bracket that makes directing the light effortless and reliable; a large, easy to find push button switch and a virtually bulletproof, easy access battery door that protects the 3AAAs and its electronics. Yea.. that’s pretty much it.

Simple. Perfect. Fuel.

I never owned a headlamp until I learned how handy it was for Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre during the economic collapse in Argentina. I love it. I even bought one for my Dad and the “super” at my old apartment building before I moved ($20.16 @ Amazon.com as I type this).

As soon as I get my hands on the headlamp, I grab two more “essentials” right away- a battery-powered LED lantern and dual-power (AC/batteries) portable fan.

The Coleman Twin High Power LED Lantern was another Cabelas purchase from a couple of years ago. From the Coleman website:

Enjoy the outdoors in full, bright light with the Coleman® Twin High Performance LED Lantern. Ultra-bright at 580 lumens, this lantern lets you see far and wide while four Cree® LEDs, which never need to be replaced, provide effective, efficient, energy-saving light when you need it. With seven brightness settings that range from high to ultra-low, you’ll have just the right amount of light. A long runtime—100 hours on ultra-low and 10 hours on high—will have you back home before you need fresh batteries. Its water-resistant construction delivers reliable output, even in wet and windy conditions, and its base unscrews for quick access to the battery chamber so you can change them virtually anywhere, anytime. Powered by 8 D-cell batteries, come out of the dark with the Coleman® Twin High Performance LED Lantern.

-Eight brightness settings ranging from high to ultra-low
-580 incredibly bright lumens on high
-52-ft. (15.85 m) beam distance on high
-Up to 10 hours runtime on high setting
-Up to 100 hours runtime on low setting
-Powered by eight D-cell batteries (sold separately)
-Four lifetime Cree® LEDs never needs replacing
-Stays cool while running
-Water resistant against rain and splashing water
-5-year limited warranty

Boy is this thing bright- even on lower settings! I had it lit in the master bedroom Friday and anyone passing by might have easily thought we didn’t lose power. I’ve run this lantern several times since it was purchased for short durations, and the “D” batteries that I installed a couple of years ago are still going strong (had to check for battery leakage as soon as I typed that- I’m good). I like it so much I’m planning on buying one for my parents ($56.99 @ Amazon.com as I type this).

Blackout Gear

“Essential”:O2COOL Portable Fan and Coleman LED Lantern

The other “essential” I grab is a dual-power (AC/batteries) portable fan from Chicago-based O2COOL. The model I picked up from a local Kmart a couple of years ago (#1071) looks to be discontinued. However, its successor, O2COOL NEW 10″ Battery Operated Fan with Adapter (Model# FD10002A), certainly looks just as capable judging by Amazon.com reviews. From the O2COOL website:

Features Include:

Dual Power sources: Plug-in with the AC adapter (included) or use 6 D-Cell batteries (not included)
Powerful 2 speed 10-inch blade.
Convenient built-in handle.
Compact design makes it great for travel; easy to carry and store.
Perfect for office and home.
Up to 40 hours of battery life.

The portable fan does a great job of cooling off an individual and circulating air around a small room for its compact size. The O2COOL comes out every time the lantern does. And like the Coleman, I’ve used it several times for short durations since its purchase, with the original 4 “D” batteries I put in it still working strong. I plan on buying more O2COOL dual-power portable fans, as Chicago summers can be brutal ($20.99 @ Amazon.com as I type this).

I usually bust out other items, like an emergency weather radio or portable DVD player- but not before that other gear.

While my girlfriend and I have managed to get by with the above, I am looking at acquiring more items for when the lights go out, such as additional emergency lighting, an emergency weather radio with more capabilities, and another portable dual-power fan. More about that in a future “Project Prepper” post though.

In the meantime, readers- care to share the “essential” gear you like to use when the lights go out?

I, for one, would love to hear what your go-to items are.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago-Area Lakes Hit By Bad Fish Kill

A number of Chicago-area preppers/survivalists might be planning to fish the local lakes to supplement their diet should TSHTF.

If that’s the case, be advised of the following, which I read in a weekly roundup section in my Sunday Chicago Tribune:

Fish kill worse than usual, expert says

Another legacy of the harsh winter: The fish kill in small lakes around the area was worse than what one state fisheries official said he’d seen in 34 years on the job.

Here’s hoping this won’t jeopardize my shot at landing a big pike or largemouth at my family’s place in southeastern Wisconsin this summer/fall…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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USDA: Food Prices Expected To Rise 2.5 To 3.5 Percent In 2014

It’s not only prices at the pump that are going up these days where I live.

From what I’ve seen, food prices keep rising as well (while portions continue to shrink).

And it looks to continue that way in 2014. Ros Krasny reported on the Reuters website Tuesday:

U.S. food prices are expected to rise more rapidly this year after a very tame 2013, led by gains in beef, poultry and egg prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

The food price inflation outlook assumes normal weather, the USDA said, adding that the California drought poses a risk of bigger increases in many food categories, and that high supermarket prices for beef are “here to stay.”

Various measures, including overall food, food-at-home and food-away-from-home prices, are expected to rise by 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2014. The consumer price index for all food prices rose by 1.4 percent in 2013…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Krasny added that according to the USDA, prices at the supermarket have risen by an average of 2.8 percent annually since 1990.

I blogged about potential avenues for saving in this area back on March 10, 2011, and March 23, 2013.

Seeing that a landscaper is scheduled to stop by tomorrow, now’s as good a time as any to formulate a plan for fighting higher food costs while moving towards food self-sufficiency here in the Chicago suburbs. I’ll fill you in on what I’ve come up with in a future “Project Prepper” post (starting up again next week).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Krasny, Roz. “Pricier beef ‘here to stay’ as food costs seen higher: USDA.” Reuters.com. 25 Mar. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/us-usa-agriculture-inflation-idUSBREA2O13Q20140325). 27 Mar. 2014.

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MarketWatch On Jim Rogers: ‘Signs Are Suggesting He’s Right In His Gloomy Prognostication On Food Supplies’

I started blogging about investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers back in the summer 2007, right after launching Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street.” Rogers- who correctly called the commodities rally in 1999- was already talking up agriculture as a great investment opportunity seven years ago.

Time and time again on this blog, I’ve noted how bullish the former investing partner of George Soros is about the sector.

And yesterday, the financial website MarketWatch concluded the Singapore-based investor might be on to something.

From Karen Friar on The Tell blog:

What makes today’s comments more pointed is that signs are suggesting he’s right in his gloomy prognostication on food supplies.

Severe weather of different kinds, production constraints and other factors are pushing up prices of beef, bread and other staples (read: 10 foods eating into your budget). Plus, California — the U.S.’s agricultural heartland — won’t get any irrigation water this summer, despite being gripped by a drought. That should end up hitting consumer wallets, too. And even the crisis in Ukraine could end up putting pressure on grain markets…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Naysayers love to bash Mr. Rogers and his investment predictions, trying to “call the game while it’s still in the early innings” (the same happens to fellow “crash prophets” Marc Faber and Peter Schiff- just look at the CNBC.com comments section underneath an article written about any one of the three). But I remember a British publication analyzing the outcome of his investing calls after he made that gloomy British pound forecast a few years back, and determining that more often than not Rogers is correct.

Chalk another one up for the CEO of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests, Inc.? I think it’s a little too early still to give Rogers full credit, but based on his track record I have a feeling he’ll get this agriculture call right too.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Friar, Karen. “Jim Rogers: Want to make money? Drive a tractor.” The Tell. 25 Feb. 2014. (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2014/02/25/jim-rogers-want-to-make-money-drive-a-tractor/). 27 Feb. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 9

Remember when I blogged last week about bread, eggs, and milk disappearing from grocery store shelves before a severe weather event?

I was in the northwest suburbs of Chicago last Thursday attending a wake. I had already been there for a while when I headed downstairs to the “break” room. I found myself talking to one of the other attendees, and the conversation turned to the recent “polar vortex” and the accompanying snow that pummeled the Chicagoland area. This person mentioned to me how she was at a grocery store during the severe weather event and noticed only one loaf of bread left on the shelves. She confided in me that her and her family aren’t really big bread-eaters. Yet, she thought to herself that she’d better grab that last loaf before that particular staple food was all gone.

At that point, we were interrupted by someone helping themselves to some food from the table we were standing in front of.

But I did manage to ask her real quick, “So, did you end up buying that last loaf of bread?”

To which she replied, “Yes I did!”

Probably not going to eat the bread, but still snapped it up anyway.

I wonder what those psychologists I mentioned last week in that bread/eggs/milk post would say about that?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Zombie Survival Training In Chicago

It’s the beginning of a new year. And if you’re like me, you may be looking at taking a class or two in the next twelve months.

First Aid and AED/CPR training through the American Red Cross is high on my list.

Zombie Survival Training is up there as well.

Zombie Survival what?

I recently stumbled upon a locally-taught class entitled “Zombie Survival Training” on Dabble.com, an Internet “marketplace for classes.” From their website:

If the zombie apocalypse happened right now, would you be ready? Do you even have a plan?

This course is designed to teach you how to survive the worst disaster imaginable, even a wide-spread pandemic of flesh-eating zombies. Using the zombie apocalypse as the worst case scenario, we will discuss survival strategies, food and water preparation and improvised weapons. This class is perfect for zombie lovers and survivalists alike.

After this class you will know where to go, what to eat and how to defend yourself when the unthinkable happens.

Okay, so it’s not really all about zombies. In fact, at the top of the Dabble page it’s classified as a “disaster survival class.”

The course is being taught by The Green Suite. From the Dabble page:

A self-proclaimed eco-warrior, Nick Conrad founded The Green Suite to enlighten others how to lessen their impact on the environment while improving their homes. Through The Green Suite, he teaches innovative, DIY ways of producing food, power, and products from recycled objects and repurposed materials. The Green Suite offers classes, tips, and kits online to help any aspiring eco-file get started. Nick has been featured in Chicago’s Red Eye for his Zombie Survival Class and presented as a guest speaker in local schools…

I’ve heard of Nick Conrad before. Kara Spak wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website back on June 24, 2013:

Conrad, 32, an Eagle Scout, Dick’s Last Resort waiter, former improv performer, small business owner and self-described ecowarrior, teaches Zombie Survival Training in Chicago…

Conrad is a zombie-genre fan but believes there are more realistic but equally sinister scenarios we should prepare for, like a weather disaster or a terrorist attack. Those who attend Zombie Survival Training- each class has room for about 30 people- will come away ready for those as well…

Conrad has background teaching survival skills. As an Eagle Scout in Texas, he taught wilderness survival…

Through Green Suite, Conrad offers more than just survival instruction. Spak added:

He’s an active environmentalist whose dream is to live totally off the grid in the city. His company, Green Suite, teaches local folks how to create more sustainable elements in their homes, like a hydroponic garden created from wine bottles. Through Green Suite, he teaches non-zombie-themed classes showing how to make a big but low-cost impact on the environment.

In his own two-bedroom Lake View apartment, Conrad has built solar panels, a hydroponic garden and a soil garden, all of which can be removed when he moves. On the third floor, Conrad said he is well positioned to survive a zombie apocalypse.

“I’ve got food, I’m building a water filtration system, I’ve got my own electricity,” he said…

Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. And something I’d like to learn more about in the future.

According to Dabble, the next Zombie Survival Training class is scheduled to take place on January 29 at the Holiday Club, 4000 North Sheridan Road, Chicago (I remember hitting the Holiday Club with my pals back in the mid-90s and from what I recall- wink- it was a lot of fun). The cost is $25 per person, with only 3 spots left as I type this.

For more information, you can visit the Dabble page for the class here. To receive info on future classes and other instruction, you can subscribe to The Green Suite newsletter on their website here.


“Zombie Girl- Creepy Crawler- Music Video”
(Warning- Violence)
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Spak, Karen. “ Fear not the apocalypse; zombie survival training on offer.” Chicago Sun-Times. 24 June 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/20862179-421/fear-not-the-apocalypse-zombie-survival-training-on-offer.html). 13 Jan. 2014.

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Attack On California Power Substation Just A ‘Dress Rehearsal’?

Speaking of the fragile U.S. power grid this morning, I’ve been itching to discuss the following incident that took place in April and which I’ve been hearing more about as time goes on. Shane Harris reported on the Foreign Policy website back on December 27:

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.

Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned.

“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”


Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
“PG&E Substation Surveillance Video”
(Sparks from bullets @ 1:54, 2:07, 2:10, 2:57, and 3:01)
YouTube Video

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now in charge of the case. Even though the shooting took place one day after the Boston Marathon bombing, Harris wrote the FBI “has no evidence that the attack is related to terrorism, and it appears to be an isolated incident.”

However, there’s this later on in the piece:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Wackjob(s)? Terrorist(s)? The authorities may never find out just who was behind the attack. But I can only imagine if this had taken place in the Chicago area during a brutal cold spell like the one we’re in now.

Should a similar attack be successful here in Chiberia-like conditions and the region plunged into an extensive and extended power outage, chaos and carnage could easily ensue.

Extreme weather (space weather included). Cyber attacks. Physical attack. I wished Washington would take steps to significantly harden the national power grid. But they won’t any time soon (other spending priorities, no immediate/substantial political “return” from doing so).

Regrettably, the bad guys have almost certainly figured this out as well.

Yep. Alternative/backup electricity and heating is starting to sound real good right now.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Harris, Shane. “‘Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.” Foreign Policy. 27 Dec. 2013. (http://complex.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/24/power-station-military-assault), 8 Jan 2014.

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Illinois Could See Rolling Blackouts From High Electricity Usage

While watching the news this morning on Chicago’s WGN-TV, it was mentioned that Illinois could see rolling blackouts as a result of the high electricity demand stemming from the extreme winter weather.

Rolling blackouts? That would suck in these frigid conditions. But considering how fragile the U.S. power grid is, I’m really not surprised to hear this.

Michelle Manchir reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

After electricity demand soared during Tuesday’s continuing bitter cold, one of the country’s largest electric grid operators asked consumers in Illinois and several other states to turn down the thermostats a touch during peak usage hours Wednesday.

PJM Interconnection, which coordinates wholesale electricity distribution in 13 states including Illinois, is also asking residents to avoid using power-gulping appliances like the stove, dishwasher and washers and dryers between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m..

Demand in the PJM Interconnection’s territory reached 140,835 megawatts Tuesday morning, far above typical winter usage of 110,000 to 120,000 megawatts, a PJM spokeswoman said. Summertime peaks can reach 165,000 megawatts, the spokesman said…

As I mentioned the other day, we already lost power once during the “polar vortex.” Will be crossing my fingers it doesn’t happen for the remainder of this cold spell.

Alternative power and heating sources- two areas that require much more attention from me if I’m to stay in these parts.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Manchir, Michelle. “Cold triggers call to conserve electricity.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Jan. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-cold-power-grid-met-20140108,0,500205.story). 8 Jan. 2014.

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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 Energy, Infrastructure, Preparedness, Utilities, Weather No Comments

Bread, Eggs, And Milk Disappear From Grocery Store Shelves Prior To Severe Winter Weather

This past weekend, I was watching the local news prior to the snow and “polar vortex” that descended on the Chicago area when the co-anchors started talking about a photo submitted by a Lake View grocery store. It depicted a number of barren shelves where loaves of bread used to be displayed. One anchor proceeded to tell viewers that bread, eggs, and milk typically disappear from grocery stores and supermarkets prior to these types of events.

Bread, eggs, and milk? Okay, I can see that.

This isn’t just a Chicagoland thing either. Nick Schneider reported on the website of southern Indiana’s Greene County Daily World back on January 6, 2010:

Mark Angell, president of Angell’s Food Center in Linton, says it’s kind of a retailing mystery why people seem to flock to the store and stock up on staple items like bread, milk and eggs whenever a big winter storm is predicted.

Empty shelves for those items are not unusual…

When asked why there seems to be likening for bread, milk and eggs as pre-storm supplies, Angell replied, “We have never been able to figure that out. For some reason, bread and milk are the items of choice and that’s what they come after.”

Bloomfield IGA office manager Mandy Donovan also said she’s noticed a rush for the “Big 3″ — bread, milk and eggs — whenever a storm is headed toward Greene County.

“They are the staples from back in ‘the day’. Whenever you’d get snowed in, you’d have those things on hand. We joke around and say every time it snows, they (the customers) want French Toast,” she said with a laugh…

French Toast. Yum. All this talk of food is really making it difficult to hold out until lunch time.

In all seriousness, people cleaning out bread, eggs, and milk before a severe weather event is something that’s been investigated at the psychological level. Laurie L. Dove recently authored a piece entitled “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” on Discovery’s HowStuffWorks website, and said:

Rain, sleet or snow, there’s milk in the refrigerator and bread in the basket. This may sound a bit like the delivery mantra of the U.S. mail service, but it’s actually the tactic most Americans employ during severe weather. And this behavior offers clues as to the motivations driving them.

The compulsive desire to stockpile perishables isn’t always based on logical behavior. “The thought to get milk before a storm is followed by the action or compulsion to go out and stockpile it. In one way or another, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to feel in control, and buying things you might throw out still gives the person a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation,” says Lisa Brateman, a New York City-based psychotherapist.

In contrast, filling your cart with cans of beans and tuna — or any selection of non-perishables — sends the message that you expect the storm to keep you homebound for an extended period. Although practical, non-perishables are a psychological admission that you’ve surrendered to waiting out the storm and its aftermath; perishables are about optimism.

“Buying perishables is like saying, ‘the storm will be over soon and I won’t be stuck in this situation for long,’” says Judy Rosenberg, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles…

Interesting. Without delving too deeply into this matter, I chalk up the buying of these staple foods to the fact that one can make a variety of tasty meals out of them. French Toast included (stomach grumbling).

While I’m a big believer of having food needs taken care of long before extreme weather hits, in the event that I ever find myself doing some last-minute grocery shopping (girlfriend will be laughing pretty hard when she reads this), hitting the sections where the bread, eggs, and milk are kept first is probably not a bad idea.

Or else I might have to contend with the following…


“I’ve got to get some bread and milk, oh my god!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Schneider, Nick. “Do you have your bread, milk, eggs? — People tend to stock up on ‘The Big 3′ before bad weather hits.” Greene County Daily World. 6 Jan. 2010. (http://www.gcdailyworld.com/story/1600136.html). 7 Jan. 2014.

Dove, Laurie L. “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” HowStuffWorks.com. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/buy-bread-and-milk-before-storm.htm). 7 Jan. 2014.

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Greetings From Chiberia!

Record-breaking cold grips Chicago area

The Chicago area has already set a new record low today, with temps hitting minus 16…”

-Chicago Tribune website, January 6, 2014

When it comes to preparing for emergencies/disasters, as much as getting ready for some zombie apocalypse or other low-probability event might be more interesting, it’s the routine stuff that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Case in point, severe weather.

I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area for most of my life. And I’ve seen my share of extreme weather. But all the recent snow and arctic temps have already made the winter of 2013-2014 a memorable one.

It’s so cold and snowy outside, last night the banner of the Chicago Sun-Times website read “Chicago Sun-Times.com, Cloudy, 2, Horror.”

As I type this Monday morning, it’s now been updated to read “Chicago Sun-Times.com, Cloudy, -14, HOTH.”

That’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. Not factoring in wind chill.

As for “HOTH,” at first I was like, “What’s that an acronym for?” And then I remembered…


“Stars Wars Empire Strikes Back Battle of Hoth (Full)”
YouTube Video

Funny guys over at the Sun-Times.

Speaking of the rebels’ main generators on planet Hoth, by Sunday evening, I had kept up on the shoveling and snowblowing throughout the weekend and the house was pretty much buttoned-up for the “polar vortex.”

And then we lost power.

I thought to myself, “I knew I should have picked up a portable gas-powered generator when they went on sale in the fall.” I told my girlfriend, “God forbid the power is off for an extended period of time. With those falling temps outside and now inside, I’m worried about the pipes freezing up.”

When I called the electric company, I was told there were 1,500-plus other customers in our area who were in the same boat. Cause being investigated. Expected restoration time? About two hours.

Thankfully, the electricity came back on after fifteen minutes. By that time, I had already busted out a battery-powered lantern and some other items.

It’s been a crazy couple of days. Saturday morning I was up at my family’s place in Wisconsin checking on things and turning the thermostat up a few notches in anticipation of more snow and the deep freeze. While driving there on a Wisconsin highway, I came across two car accidents. The first involved a car that was sitting in the grassy median with the roof partially crushed and the windshield and other windows broken. A sheriff’s deputy was already on scene. The second was a pickup truck that was resting on its side in a ditch adjacent to the opposite lanes of traffic. Again, the police were already there. Funny thing was, the weather wasn’t bad (30 degrees Fahrenheit, no snow, highway plowed nice and clean), yet there was still all this carnage. On the way back to Chicagoland, I got caught by a snow storm. Driving became really tricky real fast, so much so I witnessed in my rear-view mirror a semi-trailer truck almost jackknife a few car lengths back after getting cut off by a sedan. The semi-trailer heaved to the left, then to the right, before the driver managed to regain control.

At which point the truck driver looked like he was trying to sideswipe the sedan before its driver escaped via an exit ramp.

Like I said- crazy.

Watching the local news this morning they said this was the coldest the region has seen in twenty years. Hearing that took me back to the winter of 1993-1994, when I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I remember temperatures being just as cold, and having to attend a certain class. Go figure, this stupid college kid didn’t have any winter clothes down at school with him except for a coat. No hat, no scarf, no gloves. Plenty of baseball caps though. I ended up taking the blanket off my bed, wrapping it over my head, around my face, and stuffing it inside my coat before walking out the door to class. My classmates must have thought I looked pretty funny wearing that thing in my seat. Then again, considering the circumstances, they might have been envious. When I returned home, I noticed my ears were incredibly red. Turns out, I still got frostbite on the extremities of my ears despite wearing a comforter.

Twenty years later, the weather outside is eerily similar. But this time, I’m much better prepared for the frigid temps- multiple winter coats, gloves, hats, etcetera. No need to bust out a bed comforter this time around.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And as much fun as it may be buying that bio-hazard themed katana sword to fight the zombie hordes, you might be better off picking up a quality shovel, a portable generator, even just a winter hat, to successfully deal with the severe weather at this time of year.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago-Area Winter Survival Training Camp Planned For This Weekend

Brrr. It’s been cold here in Chicagoland. But that’s what I love above this part of the country- the four seasons. And it’s only fitting that with a couple of inches of snow on the ground already (with more expected tomorrow) that I’d spot the following scheduled winter activity on the American Preppers Network website tonight. From the section entitled “Prepper Expos And Events”:

Saturday December 14th, 10AM Saturday till 10:00 AM Sunday. Goodenow Grove, Will County IL: Winter Survival Training Camp, Sponsored by Southwest Chicago Live Free USA, Camping optional, preregistration required. Planned activities: fire craft, cooking, winter survival skills, snowshoes, sleds, skies, Equipment testing, more. Contact: dancingstick13@aol.com

Sounds interesting. Reading this reminded me of when I attended a “Klondike derby” in the Chicago-area forest preserves as a Boy Scout many years ago. I learned quite a bit from the different “stations” that frigid winter day. I’d be willing to bet I’d learn a good deal more from this planned gathering.

Contact that e-mail address above to see if the event is still a go and/or to find out more information. As for the Live Free USA program, you can find out more about them here.

Stay warm…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 Education, Emergencies, Gear, Preparedness, Training, Weather No Comments

On TV: American Blackout

A week-and-a-half ago, I received a press release from the National Geographic Channel about a world premiere movie event that’s taking place this Sunday, October 27, at 9 PM ET/PT on the cable/satellite TV network. From the release:

(WASHINGTON, D.C. October 7, 2013) Imagine 10 days of a catastrophic blackout across the United States. No cell phone service, no ATM withdrawals, no working street lights, no available gasoline … no escape. Fact: It could happen.

On Sunday, October 27, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the lights will go out. American Blackout, National Geographic Channel’s two-hour, edge-of-your-seat movie event imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless.

Gritty, visceral and totally immersive, see what it might take to survive from day one, and who would be left standing when the lights come back on.

American Blackout combines startling user-generated footage from recent real blackouts and disasters like Hurricane Sandy intercut with the dramatic shot footage in feature film style. Follow the struggles of ordinary Americans wrangling through the chaos, and witness one prepper family who prepared for the worst.

Who are these “ordinary Americans”? Nat Geo Channel says:

American Blackout focuses on five different storylines: A family about to have a baby in California, and using a handycam; a teenage guerrilla filmmaker in Austin; students in an elevator in Arizona using their phone cameras; a New York City couple trapped in a penthouse filming with their phone camera; as well as a prepper family in Colorado using a camcorder.


“American Blackout”
YouTube Video

Now, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance screening copy of American Blackout from the folks over at the National Geographic Channel. And let me just tell you- the made-for-TV movie was pretty gripping stuff. The wheels in my head kept turning throughout the film as I kept thinking to myself what I would do/would have done if faced with the same situations.

I really thought After Armageddon, a 2010 History Channel production, was put together quite well. In my opinion, American Blackout is right up there with it. I did have some issues with the movie (both too optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, if that makes any sense), which I’ll discuss in a future review of the special.

In the meantime, if you get the National Geographic Channel on your TV, check it out Sunday evening.

For more information about American Blackout, visit the website that’s been set aside for Sunday’s event here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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What Effect Have (Post-) Apocalyptic-Themed TV Shows And Films Had On The Prepping Movement?

“i friggin LOVE “doomsday preppers”!”

-Milla Jovovich, American model and actress of Resident Evil-fame, Facebook post, November 24, 2012

Back in February 2012, the Daily Mail (UK) reported that “as many as three million Americans now fall into the category dubbed ‘preppers’- people who are making detailed plans for the end of the world as we know it.”

(Editor’s note: Most mainstream media outlets drop that “as we know it” bit out, which is a shame as there’s an important distinction to be made between preparing for the “end of the world as we know it” as opposed to the actual “end of the world” where such activity may be thought of as futile. Kudos to the the British publication for keeping this scenario “intact.”)

That the ranks of individuals taking up preparedness have grown significantly in the last couple of years while (post-) apocalyptic-themed television shows and big screen productions simultaneously exploded in popularity is probably not coincidence. As a matter of fact, it’s something the National Geographic Channel, as part of an upcoming “Blog Carnival,” is currently exploring. The American cable and satellite television channel wants to know what effect these TV shows and films have had on the prepping movement.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a strong correlation between the two. As more shows and movies of the (post-) apocalyptic genre were aired/released for public viewing, I can’t help but suspect increasing numbers of Americans bought into the idea of prepping.

I have a feeling the seed for prepping was already planted before watching such shows and films in many cases. Scientific and technological advancements in the Information Age have increased Americans’ knowledge of potential man-made and natural disasters beyond events fresh in the mind of many such as 9/11, 2005′s Hurricane Katrina, the Panic of ’08, 2012′s Hurricane Sandy, and April’s Boston Marathon Bombings. Viewing such productions on a TV in the family room or at a local movie theater might have made such threats feel closer to home, thereby prompting action.

So the TV shows and films may have served as some sort of prepping recruitment vehicle. Yet at the same time, the preppers portrayed in such media have more often than not been of the extreme sort. These individuals probably aren’t a good representative of your typical prepper, if only because there are many different kinds of preppers out there.

Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed a number of production companies and cable/satellite television channels have come under fire because of the way preppers are portrayed. I can understand why this is, as some believe such depictions only serve to fuel ridicule and potential persecution of preppers by a number of parties including the mainstream media and the government. However, keep in mind that cable/satellite television channels and production companies are part of the entertainment industry, where these extreme prepper types can be quite entertaining to watch (cha-ching!). Those behind the ridiculing and potential persecution of American citizens for merely fulfilling the federal government’s recommendations as it concerns household emergency preparedness should keep this in mind as well.

At the end of the day, it must be pointed out that preppers actually perform a major public service in the event of a community/regional/national emergency. That’s right. Think about it. Preppers strive to be able to take care of themselves, family, friends, and even neighbors in many cases in the event of a real crisis. That’s one less person or group of people public safety agencies need to attend to in a significant emergency, where resources are typically stretched thin already. Because preppers can assume this “sheepdog” role, police, fire, and other groups can focus their limited amount of resources on others (more often than not, those who didn’t prepare).

One might even argue here it should be the civic duty of Americans to prep if they can.

Imagine if every American household had a couple of weeks of emergency food, water, and other supplies socked away in case of emergency. The next time a man-made or natural disaster reared its ugly head, think how much smoother the emergency response might be, especially when compared to those recent events I listed earlier.

Returning to the National Geographic Channel’s question as to what effect (post-) apocalyptic-themed TV shows and films have had on prepping, despite often portraying more extreme prepper types (it’s just show business!), it’s my belief such productions have increased the ranks of preppers in the United States, thereby assisting public safety agencies across the United States in the event of a real disaster as preppers should be able to take care of themselves and a number of other individuals in many cases, freeing up limited resources to be applied elsewhere in the emergency response.

Thank you for doing this preppers!

And production companies and cable/satellite TV channels like the National Geographic Channel- go ahead and give yourselves a nice pat on the back as well.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Brady, Tara. “Fill the pool with fish and stockpile the guns: Up to THREE MILLION ‘Preppers’ in the U.S. are prepared for for the end of the world.” Daily Mail. 11 Feb. 2012. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099714/Meet-preppers-Up-3-MILLION-people-preparing-end-world-know-it.html). 20 Oct. 2013.

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Resource Of The Week: National Hurricane Center Website

Last week’s “Resource Of The Week” focused on forecasting severe space weather- particularly, Sun-induced geomagnetic storms

For this week’s ROTW post, I’ve decided to focus on predicting turbulent weather back here on Earth- namely, tropical storms and hurricanes.

Enter the National Hurricane Center, which is part of the National Weather Service (NWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

From the Center’s Facebook page:

The National Hurricane Center mission is to save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts and analyses of hazardous tropical weather, and by increasing understanding of these hazards through global outreach…

The National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Specialist Unit issues forecasts and warnings on tropical cyclones, and maintains a continuous watch on areas of disturbed weather that have the potential to develop into a tropical cyclone within the North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Ocean basins. The NHC’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch generates analyses and forecasts of weather over the tropical Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Ocean basins year-round.

Founded back in 1870, I’ve been visiting the Miami, Florida-based National Hurricane Center website for a number of years now. Ever since Hurrciane Katrina, come to think of it.

On the site, you will find:

-News of the day/past news
-Maps tracking Atlantic and Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone activity (first thing I look at to give me a good idea of what’s going on off each our coasts)
-Atlantic/Caribbean Sea/Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Pacific tropical weather outlooks
-Hurricane preparedness info
-Additional resources

Looking at the Atlantic tropical cyclone activity map real early Saturday morning, there’s two potential cyclones (one with low, one with medium probability of forming) heading west into the Atlantic Ocean out of Africa.

Something tells me the Atlantic hurricane season is going to get quite a bit busier than it has been this year.

But, rather than wait for me to blog about it, keep a tab on the action (or lack thereof) yourself by visiting the National Hurricane Center website here.

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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