Category Archives: USA

Virginia | Hampton prepares for winter storm

The National Weather Service forecast expects that Hampton will receive between 8 and 10 inches of snow this evening and overnight. The City is closing City Hall and non-emergency offices and programs at 3:30 p.m.

Check this list frequently as closings are announced for Wednesday, Jan. 29:
Hampton City Schools are closed.
Hampton courts are closed.
The landfill and Hampton Yard Waste site are closed.
No classes at Hampton Arts Commission.
No classes at Thomas Nelson Community College.
New Horizons Regional Education Center is closed.
Bryant and Stratton Hampton campus closed.
Hampton University closed (facilities and cafeteria staff report).
Hampton Housing Authority closed.

North Carolina | Dare County – Residents urged to prepare for winter storm

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for all of Eastern North Carolina including Dare County in effect from 10 am Tuesday, January 28 to 4 pm EST Wednesday, January 29. A low pressure system will be in a favorable position southeast of the coast to spread heavy snow across Eastern NC beginning as early as Tuesday morning. The snow will increase in intensity through the day and become heavy late Tuesday afternoon through Tuesday night. The heaviest snowfall will occur Tuesday night. Expected snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches with locally higher amounts. Some minor ice accretion or sleet may occur along coastal sections. Driving will become very hazardous, especially Tuesday night when the heaviest snow is expected. Winds will be north 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. Temperatures will remain steady in the 20’s. Wind chills may reach as low as 8 degrees.

A winter storm warning remains in effect for Dare County through Wednesday afternoon, January 29  and is expected to bring heavy snowfall with the potential for severe icing.

Dare County offices located on Hatteras Island will close at noon today. County offices north of Oregon Inlet remain open. All after school activities scheduled through Dare County Parks and Recreation are cancelled.  In addition, Dare County Transportation has cancelled all scheduled appointments for this afternoon.

The Dare County Clerk of Court has announced that Juvenile Court is cancelled for Wednesday, January 29.

Dare County Emergency Management continues to monitor the weather and advises that road conditions will deteriorate as the storm approaches.  By late this afternoon, residents are asked to stay home and avoid driving if at all possible.  Although the snow and sleet are expected to end early Wednesday, roadways will remain hazardous through Friday morning.

Residents are asked to make final preparations as soon as possible. 

  • Have a household emergency supply kit, including a supply of drinking water and non-perishable foods. Bottled water or water in containers should be stored should utilities be disrupted.
  • If you lose power or other utilities, do not call 911. Use customer service numbers to report power outages.  Dominion Power: 1-866-366-4357, Tideland:  1-800-882-1001. Cape Hatteras:  1-866-511-9862.
  • Provide shelter for pets.
  • Keep cell phones charged.
  • Ensure that flashlights and a battery-powered radio are in good working order. Have plenty of batteries. Use of candles and other open-flame light sources is not recommended
  • Dress appropriately with head and hands covered if you go outdoors in temperatures below freezing.
  • Avoid over-exertion. Cold weather puts a strain on the heart, even without exercise.
  • Check on neighbors and relatives.  The elderly are especially susceptible to hypothermia and falls on icy surfaces.

USA | New committee to advise HHS on needs of children in disasters

The needs of children in disasters will be the focus of an advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters will provide expert advice and consultation to the HHS Secretary on comprehensive planning and policies to meet the needs of children before, during, and after a disaster or other public health emergency.

The department is seeking nominations for committee members from the scientific, public health, and medical fields.

“More than one quarter of the U.S. population is younger than 20 years of age, and addressing their needs is integral to our planning process,” said Nicole Lurie, M.D., HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response.  “I look forward to working with the committee on this common goal and building on prior efforts to ensure our communities can meet the health needs of impacted children.”

Ensuring the safety and well-being of children in the wake of disasters and public health emergencies is an HHS priority. In 2010, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) created the Children’s HHS Interagency Leadership on Disasters (CHILD) working group to identify and comprehensively integrate children’s disaster planning activities across all components of HHS.

Progress made by the CHILD working group includes increased interagency coordination and recommendations to improve lifesaving care for children in disasters, ways to mitigate the behavioral and psychological needs of children in disasters, and medications and vaccines appropriate for use to protect children in an emergency. The working group has also recommended ways in which the nation could support child care and child welfare agencies in emergencies.

The National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters was established under the authority of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013.

Nominations are being accepted from non-federal health care professionals and representatives from state, tribal, territorial or local health care offices. Deadline for submission is Feb. 14, 2014. For more information or to be considered for committee membership, visit www.phe.gov/naccd.

HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. ASPR is an HHS leader in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security.

Maine | State CDC issues Cold Weather Advisory

With Maine experiencing continued and unseasonably cold temperatures, Governor Paul R. LePage and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention advise people to aware of the dangers associated with extremely cold weather that could impact health and safety.

During extreme cold weather the two most serious health concerns are frostbite and hypothermia. Hypothermia happens when a person’s core body temperature is lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The main causes of hypothermia are: cold temperatures, improper clothing, shelter or heating, poor fluid intake leading to dehydration, not eating enough and alcohol consumption.

“The good news is that people can take some simple steps to reduce the risk of hypothermia,” said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of the Maine CDC. “If you have to go outside, make sure that you wear clothes with adequate insulation, stay hydrated and keep your clothing dry. Of course, the best advice is to stay inside in a well-heated location. This is especially important for the elderly, children and individuals who are ill who are at high risk.”

Individuals with medical or life support equipment should ensure they have extra batteries for medical equipment and assistive devices, Pinette said. Notify your utility company, local fire department and police if you need assistance. It’s important to check on the elderly, relatives and friends who may need additional assistance to ensure their safety.

Here are additional recommendations to help in extreme cold:

  • Make sure you have a well-stocked winter home emergency supply kit
  • Protect your pets by not leaving them outside for extended periods of time
  • For many on fixed incomes, staying warm during the cold winter months can become dangerous. People with qualifying incomes may be eligible to receive help to pay for the high cost of heating oil and propane. Local Community Action Agency (CAA) administers fuel assistance programs in each county. For more information, please visit 211 Maine for a referral to a local CAA.

Additional information on preventing hypothermia and being safe in the winter can be found at:

Virginia | Save the date: March 11 is Statewide Tornado Drill

Registration is now open for the March 11 Statewide Tornado Drill.  Businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals can practice taking cover from tornadoes by participating in this annual safety exercise, set for 9:45 a.m.

“During the past three years, 67 twisters struck Virginia,” said Brett Burdick, acting state coordinator for emergency management.  “April 2011 was particularly dangerous when 10 people died and more than 100 were injured.  Tornadoes are common in Virginia.  In fact, three struck southeast Virginia Jan. 11, so it is essential that everyone knows what to do when a tornado warning is issued.”

The annual drill is a joint effort of the National Weather Service and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.  To start the drill, at approximately 9:45 a.m., a test tornado warning will be sent by the NWS to NOAA Weather Radios.  These radios will sound a tone alert and show a message (or flash to indicate a message) to simulate what people will hear or see during an actual tornado warning.  The test message then will be broadcast by many local radio and TV stations.
Registration for the Statewide Tornado Drill is not required, but residents are encouraged to sign up to show their support.  Learn more about tornado safety, how to hold a drill, and how to register for the drill at www.ReadyVirginia.gov.
Here’s a look back at tornadoes in Virginia during 2013:

  • 5 tornadoes were recorded (4 EF0 and 1 EF1).
  • There were no reported injuries.
  • Property damage was nearly $72,000.
  • One tornado occurred in April and four struck in June.

During 2012:

  • 11 tornadoes were recorded (8 EF0 and 3 EF1).
  • There were no deaths, but six people were injured.
  • Property damage totaled $3 million.
  • The highest number of tornados occurred in June (6).

During 2011:

  • 51 tornadoes hit, the second highest number on record (87 struck in 2004).
  • In April, 10 people died and more than 100 were injured.
  • Most tornadoes occurred during April, but tornadoes also were recorded in March, May, August, September, October and November.
  • In April, 212 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed; more than 1,050 homes and businesses were damaged.
  • Nearly every part of Virginia experienced tornadoes, including mountain areas.
  • One-third of the tornadoes struck at night when people were asleep.

Maryland | Polar Plunge safety a top priority

The organizing team of the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics is reminding all those participating in or visiting the event tomorrow that their safety is a top priority and it is vital to heed safety precautions.  

Conditions for today’s 18th annual Plunge are not the coldest they have been, but the medical support team, headed by the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine, is advising those participating and visiting to use common sense and adhere to safety tips.  All persons attending the Plunge are reminded to dress warmly and stay warm until it is time to take their quick dip into the Bay.  The Plunge announcer will be instructing participants to change into swim attire in the heated changing tents no sooner than 15 minutes before the 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. plunges.  Plungers should keep skin exposure to a minimum.  Some show up at the venue in their swim attire in the morning.  This is NOT recommended, due to the cold temperatures and wind expected tomorrow.

In addition to dressing warmly, everyone is encouraged to visit one of the many heated tents throughout the venue that will be open and warm all day.  These include the Carnival Funfest tent, the Rams Head Ice Lodge, the 98 Rock Hot Spot, and the Astro Family Fun Zone.

Other components of the Plunge medical team include professionals from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department and Maryland State Police tactical medics, as well as personnel from several volunteer fire companies.  Medical teams will be roving throughout the venue to assist anyone in need of medical attention and will be on the lookout for persons not heeding our advice to stay covered and warm.  A red and white striped medical tent will also be staffed with professionals and is located at the entrance to the event venue.

Other advice for plungers includes making sure shoes are worn for the plunge.  Old athletic shoes are the best.  Flip flops are not recommended.

There is no requirement regarding how ‘wet’ you get when you plunge.  It is fine if you only get your ankles wet. No one is measuring how far you go in.  If you have signed up, but would prefer not to plunge, that is fine too.  If you have raised the minimum of $75, you will get your plunge sweatshirt and know you have supported a very worthwhile cause, whether or not you plunged.

The Plunge team is recommending that no one go all the way under.  One absolute is that there should be NO DIVING! The water is much too shallow and any type of headfirst dive could be very dangerous.

There is snow throughout the Plunge venue.  Those attending are urged to use caution and refrain from running.

The medical team is also reminding participants that cold weather and alcohol do not mix well.  Alcohol is prohibited in the venue except at three specific locations.  Officials will be verifying IDs and monitoring individuals to attempt to ensure excessive alcohol use does not occur.  Police will be patrolling all areas of the venue and issuing citations or making arrests for alcohol use and or disorderly conduct.

Persons who think they may need medical attention are urged to visit the medical tent, or to contact any of the dozens of state troopers, police officers, or security personnel who will be in uniform and patrolling throughout the venue.  Each will have communication with the State Police Command Post, which will dispatch assistance immediately.

Additional tips and advice can be found by visiting the Plunge website at www.plungemd.com.  Pledges can still be made to sponsor plungers registered on the website.

Louisiana | State confirms pediatric death from H1N1 influenza

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals today confirmed the death of a Northwest Louisiana child in a Shreveport hospital this week due to H1N1 flu.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to this child’s family and friends,” said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. “It is important we all remain vigilant for symptoms of flu-like illness, and be serious about taking preventative measures against the spread of flu.”

This is the first confirmed pediatric death in Louisiana this flu season. Federal law requires that states report all flu deaths in children to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death has been reported to the CDC, but will not show up in Louisiana’s flu surveillance report until next week.

Since Oct. 1, 2013, high tech lab tests have confirmed at least 20 deaths statewide from influenza. However, hundreds of people die in Louisiana each year without ever being diagnosed with the flu or from other conditions made worse by influenza, so this figure does not represent the full risk to the population of the flu.

CDC evaluations, adjusted to the 2014 situation in Louisiana, estimate since October 2013 in Louisiana there may have been up to 300,000 cases, up to 500 hospitalizations, and up to 200 deaths caused by influenza. The statewide estimate by the CDC is based on their data adjusted for 2014.  To understand more about how CDC produces their estimates please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm#categories

H1N1 is one of several strains of the flu that are circulating right now. All can be deadly. Louisiana’s flu activity has spiked in recent weeks and continues to be widespread and very high. Health officials expect this year’s flu season to continue into April. According to the state’s most recent influenza surveillance data, flu symptoms accounted for about 7.6 percent of the state’s doctor visits last week. The state’s seasonal flu activity is most prevalent in North and Central Louisiana. Click here to view the influenza surveillance reports.

Because of the increases, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is strongly encouraging all residents who haven’t already done so to protect themselves and their families by getting a seasonal flu vaccination. Each year, the flu kills more than 36,000 Americans.

“It’s not too late to vaccinate,” said J.T. Lane, assistant secretary for Public Health. “The flu shot only takes a few days to be effective, and people are usually protected completely within 7-to-10 days of getting the flu vaccine. Vaccines are the best preventive measure we have to help fight the spread of this illness. This year’s vaccination will protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus.”

The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Medical studies show getting the flu vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective in preventing people from catching the flu.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine, vaccination is especially critical for certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications. Those groups include:

  • Children younger than 5, especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who appeared to be at higher risk of flu complications last flu season
  • People who have a weakened immune system or chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease

“Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high-risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who may be especially susceptible to the virus’ effects,” said Dr. Frank Welch, director of the state’s immunization program. “This includes anyone who works with babies younger than 6 months of age, who are not eligible for the vaccine, themselves. This year’s vaccine is plentiful and available at many places, including health care providers, pharmacies, some employers and Louisiana’s parish health units.”

In addition to getting the vaccine, DHH encourages the public to take other preventive actions to stop the spread of the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit your contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

For more information on flu activity by region in Louisiana and to find out how you can avoid being ill, visit www.FighttheFlu.la.gov.

Arkansas | Flu causing severe illness, death in young adults

This year’s flu season is causing severe illness and death in adults between the ages of 25 and 50. Seven out of the 15 deaths this season in Arkansas have occurred in adults between the ages of 25 and 50, and multiple hospitalizations in this group have been reported.

It is highly recommended that all individuals in this age group receive a seasonal flu vaccine and promptly visit a doctor should they experience severe flu-like symptoms.

The most frequently seen flu strain this year is H1N1, which disproportionately affects young to middle-aged adults and pregnant women. There are multiple factors that may explain why younger, healthier people are affected this year. One observation is that only 30% of individuals in this age group have been vaccinated against seasonal flu this year. That leaves over 650,000 unvaccinated Arkansans in this age group unprotected from the flu.

Individuals who are pregnant or in this age category may experience a rapid onset of symptoms that quickly progress to severe illness. Flu symptoms include: fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, and runny or stuffy nose. If you have flu symptoms and experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, or pain or pressure in the chest, seek medical care as quickly as possible.

“An unusually high number of young to middle-aged adults are being hospitalized or dying of flu this season,” Nate Smith, M.D., MPH, State Health Officer and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health said. “This is not something we typically see during an average flu season.”

“We can’t stress enough how critical it is for all individuals to get vaccinated –especially if you’re in this age group,” Smith added. “We know the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, but it truly can mean the difference between a mild to moderate illness and death.”

The flu virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it, then touching the nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. You can also help reduce your risk of flu by washing hands frequently and avoiding those who are sick.

Flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and local health units statewide. If you visit a local health unit to get a flu vaccine, please bring your insurance cards with you. If you do not have insurance, the vaccine will be free.
For more information about flu, go to http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/flu.htm.

Kansas | Influenza activity is high across the state

Influenza activity is high in Kansas, and health officials here are encouraging everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so this season.

Based on data from the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet), influenza activity is high and widespread within the state. During the week ending Jan. 10, 2014, five percent of outpatient visits to ILINet clinic sites were due to influenza-like illness. To date, influenza or pneumonia has directly caused or contributed to 510 deaths reported in Kansas during the current influenza season (since Sept. 1, 2013), and among those, three deaths were attributed directly to influenza.

A distinguishing feature of this influenza season appears to be the re-emergence of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 strain as the dominating virus. This virus, which caused the 2009 influenza pandemic, caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults.

“In Kansas, young adults have typically had the lowest influenza vaccination rates, so we can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting a flu shot for this segment of the population,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “We encourage businesses to consider recommending their employees get vaccinated if they haven’t and to provide time away from work to accomplish this goal if necessary. Employers should also encourage their workers to stay home when ill.”

“The combination of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 being the dominating strain and low vaccination rates among children and young adults could be setting the stage for a bad influenza season,” said D. Charles Hunt, MPH, State Epidemiologist at KDHE. “If you have not had your flu vaccination for this season, now is the time.”

In addition to getting vaccinated, avoid spreading the flu virus by covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands, and staying home when you are sick.

On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu yearly, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu complications. During the peak of the 2012-2013 influenza season in Kansas, approximately six percent of all health care visits in ILINet clinics were due to influenza-like illness. Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 1,444 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2012-2013 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia was the eighth leading cause of death in 2012 in Kansas.

Nearly all persons six months and older are recommended to receive a flu vaccine every year. Vaccination is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, and anyone with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Those caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age should also be immunized. At this age, babies are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to complications from influenza.

Symptoms of the flu include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; the flu might also worsen other chronic conditions.

It’s not too late to vaccinate. To get your flu vaccine, please contact your health care provider or the local health department. Visit www.kdheks.gov/flu for more flu facts.

California | LAFD pre-deploys additional resources for wildfire danger

As a result of the anticipated increased winds and lowering relative humidity, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) will pre-deploy additional resources beginning at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

These additional firefighters will be placed at select Neighborhood Fire Stations serving high hazard brush areas for an anticipated 24 hours, pending re-evaluated weather conditions.

These Fire Stations include:
28 (Porter Ranch)
71 (Bel Air, Beverly Glen, UCLA Campus)
77 (Sun Valley, Shadow Hills, La Tuna Canyon)
83 (Encino)
84 (Woodland Hills)
91 (Sylmar, N/E City of San Fernando)
97 (Laurel Canyon & Mulholland Drive)
99 (Beverly Glen and Mulholland Drive)
106 (West Hills, Chatsworth Lake, Canoga Park)

11 additional Fire Engines will be staffed. The specific stations and locations are based on fire experience, area access and fire potential.

When fire weather conditions dictate, the City of Los Angeles may enact special parking restrictions in areas historically prone to wildfire. These are critical areas (very narrow roads, hairpin turns, and key intersections) where parked vehicles could delay citizens trying to evacuate and delay fire companies attempting to gain access during a fast moving Brush Fire.

This local declaration of parking restrictions is separate from regional forecasts from our friends at the National Weather Service.
To determine current Red Flag Alert Parking Restrictions in the City of Los Angeles, please call 3-1-1 or visit: lafd.org/redflag
You Can Help!

While terrain is readily assessed, and many hazards are managed by our annual Brush Clearance Program, the LAFD asks you to remain cognizant of local fire weather.

Your personal awareness of overall wildfire danger, combined with readiness to take quick action are key to our collective survival of brush fires.

Some have asked, “What exactly is Ready! Set! Go!?” Here’s a brief explanation. Those three words can prepare you and your family for a Wildfire:

Get Ready: Help protect your property by creating defensible space around your home. That means removing brush and replacing shake-shingle roofs. Assemble emergency supplies and plan your escape routes.

Get Set: If a wildfire threatens your neighborhood, act immediately. Place valuables in your vehicle, roll up the windows and back your vehicle into the driveway. Remove flammable materials from around your house.

Go: You don’t have to wait to be told to leave, but if told to do so, do it. Remember firefighters need room in which to work. By leaving, you give them the best chance to protect your property.