Hazards & How to Prepare for Them
Severe thunderstorms are a weekly occurrence in Bowie during summer. They bring heavy rainfall, high winds and every once in a while, a tornado. Because Bowie has a high number of trees, power outages are very likely from trees and debris falling on power lines. The best way to be prepared for thunderstorms is to sign up for alerts and know the difference between a watch and a warning.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared
Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed through emergency alerts and be ready to seek shelter quickly. If you hear thunder, lightning strikes are possible where you are, so seek shelter.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action
Severe weather has been reported in your area and warnings indicate imminent danger to like and property. Take immediate shelter in a substantial building until the storm has passed.
Tornadoes have impacted Bowie in the past, and there's always the possibility that one will impact our area again. Tornadoes cause significant damage in a localized area and often come with little or no warning. The safest plan for a tornado is to know where your shelter is and stay alert to quickly changing conditions.
Tornado Watch: Be Prepared
Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe rooms. Have a method to receive weather alerts in the event the watch becomes a warning.
Tornado Warning: Take Action
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building and avoid windows. If you are in a mobile home, vehicle or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Remain in place until the tornado warning has been lifted.
|Tornado Safety from NWS||Tornado Safety from FEMA|
Floods occur in Bowie most often during the spring/ summer, especially during severe thunderstorms. While major flooding is not common, there are a number of routes throughout the City that are impacted by localized flooding. The intersection of Superior Lane and Annapolis Road is a common flood area.
Flood Watch: Be Prepared - Conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur.
Flood Warning: Take Action - A hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening.
Flash Flood Warning: Take Action - Flash flooding is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to higher ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop.
Basic Flood Safety Tips
- If you approach a flooded road, path or walkway always, always: Turn Around, Don't Drown. You have no idea what is underneath floods, the road could have washed away. Be safe, find a new route.
- Avoid walking through flood waters. There are any number of chemicals and debris that can cause you serious harm.
- Just six 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.
Additional Flood Resources
|Flood Safety from NWS||Flood Safety from FEMA|
Winter storms happen every year in Bowie. They bring freezing rain, snow, cold air and have the unique ability to paralyze traffic with just a dusting. Being prepared for a snow storm means having some supplies in your car, watching local alerts and making smart decision on whether you absolutely must venture out. Winter weather watches differ from traditional severe storm watches because the impact is based on the local area. Six inches of snow in North Dakota is no big deal, but let's be honest, in the DMV, it would bring major arteries to a standstill. A winter storm can:
- Last a few hours or several days;
- Knock out heat, power, and communication;
- Place older adults, young children, and sick individuals at greater risk
Winter Storm Watches: Be Prepared - Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event (heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storm, blowing snow or a combination of these events).
Winter Storm Warnings: Take Action - Warnings are issued for a significant winter weather event including snow, ice, sleet, blowing snow or a combination of these. Travel will become difficult or impossible in some situations.
- Stay off the roads
- Stay indoors and dress warmly
- Prepare for power outages
- Use generators outside only and away from windows
- Listen for emergency information and alerts
- Look for signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia
- Check on neighbors
Blizzard Warnings: Take Action - Issued for frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility less than 1/4 miles for three hours or more. Do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
- Prepare your home to keep out cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping.
- Remove, drain, and store hoses indoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hoses and keep the outside valve open allowing any water remaining in the pipe to expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person's specific need, including medication. Don't forget pets!
- Have an emergency kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.
During a Storm
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. When temperatures drop, let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.
- Stay off the roads if possible. If trapped in your car, stay inside.
- Limit your time outside. Take breaks when shoveling show to avoid over-exertion that can lead to heart attacks. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stove top or oven.
Recognize and Respond
- Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.
- Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin
- Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad. When able to do so, seek medical attention.
- Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature, below 95 degrees is an emergency.
- Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness
- Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first - chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets including the head and neck.
|FEMA Snowstorm Safety||Red Cross - Prevent Frozen Pipes|
Heat waves or extreme heat, are a relatively silent disaster that often results in the highest number of deaths annually among all weather-related hazards. Extreme heat is defined as a long period (2 to 3 days) of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees.
Extreme Heat Watch: Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. The risk of a heat wave has increased but its timing is still uncertain.
Extreme Heat Warning: Issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. This warning is issued when the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 105 degrees or higher for at least 2 days and night time air temperatures will not drop below 75 degrees.
Prepare Before the Heat Arrives
- Find cooling centers within your community if you don't have air conditioning
- Keep your home cool;
- Cover windows with drapes or shades
- Weather-strip doors and windows
- Use window reflectors, such as aluminum foil covered cardboard, to reflect the heat back outside
- Add insulation to keep the heat out
- Use attic fans to clear the hot air
- Install window air conditioners and insulate around them
- Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness
Be Safe During
- Never leave a child, adult, or animal alone inside a vehicle on a warm day.
- Limit your time outdoors. Find places with air conditioning such as libraries or indoor malls.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light colored clothing
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but do not reduce body temperature.
- Avoid high-energy activities.
- Check yourself, family members and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.
Recognize and Respond
Know the signs of heat-related illness and the ways to respond to it:
- Heat Cramps
- Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs
- Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
- Heat Exhaustion
- Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting
- Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
- Heat Stroke
- Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness
- Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
Each year, we witness the devastating impacts that hurricanes can cause. Hurricanes are not just a threat to coastal communities. High winds, heavy rainfall, tornadoes, and flooding can be felt hundreds of miles inland, potentially causing loss of life and catastrophic damage to property. Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Isabel were reminders that even tucked into Maryland, a hundred miles from the coast, it is not just major hurricanes that we need to worry about; all hurricanes have the ability to cause significant damage.
Hurricane Season is June 1 to November 30
Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. Peak hurricane season falls around mid-August to late October but hurricanes can, and do, happen outside hurricane season all together.
- Make plans for evacuation and shelter in place with your family. Identify some places to go to in the event you need to evacuate, it could be a hotel or a friend/family member. Try and take your pets with you, establish pet friendly hotels ahead of time. If you cannot take your pets, find a shelter where they can stay safe.
- Build your emergency kit. Gather enough supplies for at least three days, seven is ideal. If you plan on sheltering in place, your kit should be stocked for at least two weeks.
- Keep important documents in a safe space or create password-protected digital copies.
- Protect your property. Clean out drains and gutters, allow rainfall to drain rather than pool on your roof. Install check valves in plumbing to prevent back-ups. Consider hurricane shutters. Review your insurance policy, most polices do not cover flooding, you have to call and add it to you policy.
- Insurance - Understand your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Know what your deductible is. Ask “what if” questions of your agent, such as “If I have a fire in my house, will you replace my belongings?” “What documentation will I need to get items replaced?” “Am I insured against sewer backups?” and “What incidents are excluded from my coverage?”
- The Maryland Insurance Administration has published the Consumer Guide to Homeowners Insurance and An Insurance Preparedness Guide for National Disasters Insurance Preparedness for Disasters
- Valuables - Create a written or photographic record or inventory of your valuables and store it in a safe deposit box or other off-site location. Consider also keeping a copy on a CD or flash drive in your disaster kit, so that you can provide it to your insurance company following a loss; this will allow you to start the insurance/recovery process more quickly.
- Vital Record - Scan important records such as vital records, medical records, and financial documents, and save the files on a disk or flash drive. You may also want to password-protect the data you have stored in case of loss or theft. Store the back-up records in a safe deposit box or other off-site location. If you have too many records or no way to scan/copy them, store them in a flood/fire proof home safe or a safe deposit box. Also consider giving back-up copies of important documentation to family members to store for you.
When a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving
- Watch local news and sign up for Alert Bowie to receive timely and accurate notifications. Make sure your news is coming from good sources, avoid the rumors.
- Check and restock your emergency kit. If you plan to evacuate, have your kit ready to go. Include food, water, medications, a flashlight, spare batteries, cash (in small bills) and first aid supplies.
- Review and share your communication plan with your family in the event you lose power. Tip: Sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
- Review your evacuation zone, evacuation route and shelter locations. Plan ahead as you may have to leave quickly.
- Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
When a hurricane is 18 - 36 hours from arriving
- Check news and emergency notifications for the latest, most accurate updates.
- Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (patio furniture, garbage cans)' anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on your home.
- Cover all your home's windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. No storm shutters, board up your windows with 5/8" exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
When a hurricane is 6 - 18 hours from arriving
- Turn on your TV and/or radio. Monitor alerts from your local officials, including social media for emergency instructions and weather updates.
- Charge your cell phone now, and ensure it stays charged for the remainder of the storm.
When a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving
- If you're not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay home. Let your family and friends know where you are staying
- Board up windows and board your garage door closed.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer.
- Constantly monitor the latest news updates and notifications.
- If told to evacuate, go immediately. Do not drive around barriers or closed roads, find a different route.
- If sheltering from high winds, go the the most interior room of your home with no windows.
- If flooding is possible, go to the highest level in your building. In one story homes, do not go into the attic under any circumstances. If your home begins to flood, call 911 for instructions.
- Use generators or other fuel-powered machinery outdoors only and away from windows.
- Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Flood waters contain fuel, sewage and all sorts of hidden dangers. Turn Around, Don't Drown. Just six inches of fast moving water can knock you down and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
- Stay off bridges over fast-moving water.
Be Safe After
- Listen to authorities for information and special instructions.
- Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
- Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
- Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
- Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
- Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.