Tornado! Disaster Preparedness and Donation Tips

In light of the recent tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, I’d like to take time to remind people of some basic safety and donation guidelines.

Although meteorology has come a long way, tornadoes can still drop out of a thunderstorm like ninjas.  Wrapped in rain, they are nearly impossible to see, especially at night. TAKE WARNINGS SERIOUSLY!  Just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean it’s not there!

Signs of A Tornado (from the NOAA website)

  1. Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  2. Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
  3. Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
  4. Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  5. Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
  6. Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

What to Do

  • At home, take cover in an interior room or basement, as far from windows and outside walls as possible.  Crouch on the floor and cover your head.
  • If you’re in a mobile home, get out and go somewhere else.  There is nothing there that can protect you.  Debris can penetrate the walls and tornadoes love to toss mobile homes.
  • Office or school – follow established tornado procedures—interior room or lower level, away from windows.  Stay off the elevator!
  • In a store – get away from the front windows, toward an interior room or storage.  Employees may direct you; listen to them! Do not stop to videotape the tornado!
  • Outside or in a car – leave the car and get as far away from the road as you can.  Lie flat on low ground and cover your head.  DO NOT TAKE SHELTER UNDER AN OVERPASS.  It will act as a wind tunnel and is dangerous!
  • Do not stop to video the tornado. Flying debris can kill!

After a Disaster

If you are the victim of a tornado, you may be in shock or very upset.   Watch where you walk and keep your family together.  Wait for emergency help to arrive and follow instructions when it does.

  • Don’t go back into a damaged building.  It may collapse.
  • Don’t smoke or use lighters or matches.  There may be gas leaks.
  • You can give first aid to people if you are qualified to do so.

DO NOT DRIVE TO THE DISASTER AREA TO SIGHTSEE.  You will get in the way of emergency response and may cost people their lives.  You may get arrested if you try to enter a restricted zone.  Don’t call me to bail you out, because I won’t!

Tornado Donation Tips

Many people want to help the victims of a disaster.  Sometimes they don’t think about what they’re doing.  After the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa, AL tornado, ill-considered donations left people with a mountain of crap they can’t even use.  Think before sending anything.

  1. Check out any organization you plan to donate to.  Scams are rampant after a disaster.  Look here for ways to scope disaster relief.  Legitimate charities will also publish their financials so you know exactly where your money is going.
  2. Do not send torn, worn or nasty old clothes you don’t want anymore.  Those belong in the rag bag or the trash.  No used underwear either!
  3. Same goes for household items.  Would you want a bag of someone’s junk?
  4. Most organizations and churches asking for donations will have a list of items needed on their website or will share it via email and social networking.  Stick to the list to avoid saddling a storm victim with stuff they can’t use.

Everyone should have a plan in place for the disasters that are typical of the area.  Practice and review your plan periodically so everyone knows what to do when something bad happens.

How to Tell if What You Just Heard Was a TARDIS

I’ve been watching Doctor Who on DVD and Netflix.  Great show! How did a nerd like me miss this?

It occurred to me that it’s very hard to come up with something original for a story.  People would argue it’s all been done.  Well, blimey, I think the TARDIS is pretty original.  “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” is a pretty funny name for a spaceship.  But then, the TARDIS is no ordinary ship.

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, published one of the first successful time travel novels, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in 1889.  So time travel fiction has been around for a while.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s produced by the BBC, and was on from 1963 to 1985 originally,  and was revived in 2005.  It’s the madcap adventures of a 900-year-old alien, a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey, who flies around in his TARDIS.

The Doctor is one character, played by different actors, because he goes through a periodic regeneration.  My favorite was David Tennant, the tenth Doctor.  The current eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, is kind of growing on me.  I plan to watch as many of the older shows as I can.

The Doctor is just known as “The Doctor,” and someone invariably asks, “Doctor who?” Hence the show’s name.  He travels with one primary companion and often a few extras.  The companions are usually women, caught at a crossroads when the Doctor comes into their lives.  He doesn’t date them, but he does love them in a deeply protective and mentoring way.

His TARDIS looks like a 1950s blue police box, something like a phone booth, and makes a very distinctive sound as it materializes and dematerializes.  It’s sort of a mechanical wheeze.  According to a recent episode, it’s not supposed to do that, but it’s due to some wonky adjustment.   The Doctor likes it so he left it that way.

Click HERE for the sound of the TARDIS!

Its most distinguishing feature is that it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.   This often amazes first-time visitors.  It contains many outfits from different time periods, although the Doctor and his current companion never seem to change clothes when they visit the past.  And no one there seems to notice.

Despite the incongruities, the show is a plethora of fast-talking sci-fi / fantasy action adventure with great character and awesomely creative villains.  Because it’s time travel, they can encounter everyone from Shakespeare to a giant slumbering futuristic head (The Face of Boe).  And since they can go to other planets, monsters and aliens abound.

One of the scariest monsters in any show ever appeared in a Season 4 Doctor Who episode called “Blink.”  Weeping Angels are classical-looking statue-like creatures that feed off energy.  They don’t move when you’re looking, but when you’re not…**

The Doctor tricked them into surrounding the TARDIS and then dematerialized it so they were trapped, looking at each other, and couldn’t move.  Clever!

Sci-fi and fantasy genres give television, film and novel writers endless possibilities.  There’s almost nothing you can’t do.  Speculative fiction has produced some real dogs, but there are lists and lists of excellently written books out there.  Tons of good TV shows, too.  I know people who don’t like that sort of thing.  That’s cool.  Go read some boring political thriller and leave me to my TARDIS!

If you have any suggestions on sci-fi books or shows to share, please do tell in the comments.


Vocabulary: Ja, Baby!

I’ve been dying to get back to the vocabulary posts.  They are fun.  Today’s letter is J for junior, jitterbug (it used to be a dance; now it’s a phone), jacket and Jell-o.

Oh you dear sweet mound of jiggly goodness.

Jabot –  a frilly ruffle worn on the front of a dress shirt.  Somewhat seventeenth century.

Jackalope – a cross between a jackrabbit and a small deer.  A mythical animal.  OR IS IT??

Jejune (ji-JOON)– dull, insipid, immature, or inexperienced.  Buffy’s attempts at painting were jejune at best; she could not seem to move past stick figures with fangs. 

Jerkin – a close fitting jacket or leather vest, medieval-style.   Ren Faire, pirate and re-enactment attire.

Jib – small triangle-shaped sail that comes off the foremast of a ship.  The expression I like the cut of your jib refers to the way a person looks or their personal style, and has its origin with sailors who recognized the shape of sails from different nationalities.

Jicama (HIK-uh muh) – a sort of pale brown turnip from Mexico, eaten raw or boiled.  Nice and crunchy, something like a water chestnut.

Jo–  mama! J/k!

Jongleur (Fr., ZHON-glur) – itinerant medieval minstrel.    Caught in mid-grope, Fred and Daphne stared aghast at the gibbering jongleur running through the deserted Renaissance fairgrounds. 

Jocularity – joking humor.  Anyone who ever watched M*A*S*H will remember this as one of Father Mulcahy’s words.

Jungle cock –  a male jungle fowl found in India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.  No, it’s not that;  get your mind out of the gutter right now!

Think he may be stuffed…poor bird.

Click here for a video of a live one (around 1:35).

Judder – a heavy vibration, as in a car whose clutch is going out, or an airplane in trouble.  Batman clenched his teeth as the Batplane juddered, smoke pouring out of the damaged engine.  Beside him, the bound Joker giggled wildly through his gag.   

Jy – I can’t find any words that begin with –jy.  If you know any, please share in the comments.  Or, make one up!

That’s all for today.  See you next time!

The End of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2011

I’m a couple of days late, but here is my reflection post.  In retrospect, I think the picture thing was too ambitious for someone who spends all her time in about three places.  Unless you wanted more pictures of my flowers, I feel almost as though I cheated you.

This year’s challenge was really tough.  Work has been a mean bear, plus the stress, plus the second work, plus a kind of a social life, etc.   I struggled to come up with topics.   I would come home and park it on the couch and vegetate for a few minutes before remembering that I was supposed to post.  The worst part was not having time to read many posts from other participating bloggers.

It got away from the pictures and back into writing again.  I think that is good.  I don’t want to lose focus too much.  If I want to play around with something else, I can always start another blog.  The thought produces a mental “Gah!” right now, but it’s something I’ve been considering, since the current novel is kind of stalled.

I need a break.

In less than a month, I’ll be traveling so hopefully I’ll have more pictures for you.  There’s at least one picture I plan to get that I didn’t get last time.

Here’s a toast to all those who participated in the A-Z Challenge!  We made it.  See you next year!

"Toast" by brofosifo, courtesy of stock.xchng