Understanding NWS Weather Hazards
We all get the weather reports but do you know what they mean? The difference from one word to the next could mean more than you think.
You've probably been watching TV or looking at your phone when a weather warning was issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). Depending on where you live, you may have not taken too much notice. A thunder or wind storm, after all, do not always cause so much damage. On the other hand, tornadoes do, and your ability to understand and react to weather warnings in those cases could mean the difference of life and death.
But what are the NWS weather hazard designations? They are not at all randomly chosen-- although words like "advisory" and "warning" may sound like they're conveying the same meaning, they are actually two very different designations with very different implications to those who hear them. Here's a quick rundown of what these levels mean:
A weather outlook is the first level of hazardous weather as defined by the NWS. This is the least serious designation, and means that hazardous weather is predicted to occur within the next 3 to 7 days. People are told to be aware of the coming weather and to stay updated as the storm grows nearer.
A weather advisory is the second level of hazardous weather when bad weather has actually arrived and people are told to exercise caution. This designation means that the weather is less serious, but can still cause inconvenience to those in the area.
This NWS designation is considered "more serious" and defines a situation in which "there is increased risk of a hazardous weather event, but its occurrence, location, or timing is still uncertain". People are told to listen for updates and be prepared to take action when the weather eventually materializes.
The most serious designation used by the NWS, and one that you should always pay attention to, is an issued weather warning. This is when "a hazardous weather event is occurring, imminent, or likely, and a threat to life or property exists." These are the types of designations that are issued during tornadoes and other weather hazards, and should always be acted on immediately.
You should always take care to pay attention to weather warnings and forecasts. Although in the case of an advisory you may have a few days to prepare, other times there may only be a few short hours until you may have to make more drastic decisions to protect your property and loved ones. Stay prepared year round and stay safe!
Generator Safety Tips
These can be a lifesaver during a storm! Make sure to use them safely.
Having a backup generator is always a good idea. Even if you think you'll never need it, and you very well may not, few things will change your mind quicker than losing power in the middle of a snowstorm where the safety of you or your family could be at stake. Though with the use of these machines comes danger: not only could the improper use lead to damage of your property or the unit itself, but injuries and even deaths have been reported as well. If you plan to use a generator, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Use a quality generator
Do not use a generator that is damaged in any way or looks to be quite old. There are a number of things that can go wrong with an aging generator, and whether you buy an entry-level model or something top of the line, it is up to you to insure that it's functioning properly. Some newer generators even have carbon monoxide detectors to help keep you safe.
2) Do not operate in the rain
Even though a little water may not seem like too much of an issue, it is always the best option to not use a generator in the rain. You can purchase small generator tents that will keep it dry and ventilated during a storm, or you can try to use natural cover to keep it dry.
3) Keep extra fuel/ Refill properly
A generator without fuel will not be of much help! Make sure to have some gallons in reserve and to store them in a safe place in an approved container. Also, when refilling your generator, try and let it cool down as much as possible before doing so. The hot engine can easily ignite gas fumes and the electrical equipment could produce a spark.
4) Do not operate inside
This may sound like common sense to many, but you must not under any circumstance operate a portable generator in an enclosed space. Not only is the carbon monoxide a huge concern, but fires and other accidents are more likely when the unit is running inside.
5) Use good extension cords and outlets
When using your portable generator, always make sure that your connections and cables are in good working order and fit properly. Many generators can produce a very large amount of electricity and shock risk is a real concern. If you're not sure, stop by your local hardware store to confirm you have the right setup before we get too far into winter.
Six Notable Oregon Storms
We may not have yearly tornadoes here in Oregon, but the weather is always something to keep your eye on!
As far as natural disasters go, we are all very lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest. There's a tsunami risk on the coast and a few volcanoes that could decide to wake up someday, but for the most part we do not have to deal with the seasonal storms and tornadoes that other parts of the county do, and are more or less safe from Mother Nature's fury. More or less, at least.
Every so often a storm event takes place: from thunderstorms, to floods, to far-below freezing temperatures-- Oregon and the surrounding area can still surprise us with some very serious storms every so often. So if you're tired of shoveling your driveway this winter, or wish the weather wasn't so cold, take a look at these past storm events to put it in perspective:
1) Hanukkah Eve Windstorm, 2006
Between December 14th and December 15th in 2006, hurricane-force winds and extreme rain came to the Pacific Northwest. This freak storm ended up claiming 18 lives, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, and left over 1.8 million residents without power. Many of the deaths were recorded in the days following due to carbon monoxide poisoning when residents improperly used BBQs and generators indoors.
2) Severe Thunderstorm of July 9th, 1995
This super-cell thunderstorm formed near Redmond and moved over 200 miles before dissipating. Along with producing flash floods and violent wind gusts, softball-sized hail was reported which resulted in hundreds of damaged vehicles and fully-destroyed crops. Luckily, there were no fatalities, though the storm still caused tens of millions of damage in the area.
3) January, 1950 Snowstorms
These snowstorms make the list mainly due to how long they lasted and the massive amount of snow that came with them. There were actually three separate storms this month, but with very little time between them, most at the time viewed it as one long blast of snow. Alternating freezing rain and snow locked most of the state down and thousands of people lost power. In the first few days of the month, the largest single-day snowfalls were recorded since the beginning of record keeping, and the January snow totals were something that would not be seen for a long time. Here are some month snow totals (in inches) to give you an idea: (Bend, 56.5; Corvallis, 52; Santiam Pass, 128.5; Portland Airport, 41; The Dalles, 76)
4) Floods of February, 1996
Coming right on the heels of the 1995 thunderstorm, these floods took place around the state of Oregon after sustained heavy rain for a number of days. Almost every Oregon county was declared a disaster, and close to a billion dollars of damage was caused when it was all over. Sadly, 5 people also lost their lives.
5) Columbus Day Windstorm, October, 1962
This storm would go down in history as one of the most extreme the state of Oregon has ever seen. 38 people were killed, hundreds injured, over 780 million dollars of damage was done, and many cities lost power for weeks on end. Downtown Portland recorded gusts of 116 mph, with the rest of the state experiencing similarly-destructive winds in a short period of time. Livestock and crops were decimated, and many thousands of trees were uprooted throughout the area.
6) Extreme Cold of February, 1933
An unusual push of arctic air led to the lowest-recorded temperatures ever in the state of Oregon. The towns of Seneca and Ukiah, in the Northeast, both recorded a temperature of -54 degrees F. The weather soon improved a day later to 46 degrees above zero, which is about a 100-degree swing in less than 24 hours!
There are many other storm events not mentioned in this list, though any one of them would make our common "mild" winters look like a day on the beach. Many of these storms came with little or no warning, so make sure to always have a plan for the worst! Stay informed this winter and stay safe.
Common Causes of Winter House Fires
A fire this winter could be more likely than you think! Be aware of the risks this season and keep you and your family safe.
As the weather continues to get darker and colder, we all begin to spend more and more time indoors, cranking the heater and using all of our appliances more frequently than we might during the summer. Residential structure fires are common year round, with some estimates placing the total at over 350,000 per year, resulting in 6 to 8 billion dollars in damage. The majority of these take place during the winter months.
A long list of things could potentially cause a fire in your home this season. Though some are more likely to than others. Here is a short list in no particular order outlining the most-common causes of winter house fires and ways you can prevent them this winter:
1) Dryer Lint
This innocuous fluff can really ruin your day if forgotten about for long enough. Allowing your dryer to accumulate lint without clearing it regularly could result in a fire, which it does for over 3000 homes each year. Remember to clear the lint between each use, and don't leave your home while your dryer is running-- especially if it's on the older side.
The activity of cooking a nice meal for your family by most estimates tops the list of winter house fire causes. It's easy to see why: multiple heat sources, the use of oil and gas, open flames... a large number of culprits could be to blame for a fire starting in the kitchen. Injuries are also significantly more likely in your kitchen! Stay safe this holiday season by practicing good kitchen management: keep all flammable materials away from heat sources and flames, make sure children and pets are at least 3 feet back from the oven or any other cooking appliance, never leave anything on the stove unattended (even for a little while), and be sure to keep you stove and oven free of grease to the best of your abilities.
Americans aren't smoking at the rate they once did, but the smoking of cigars and cigarettes still cause many thousands of house fires every year. This is made worse during the winter months because smoking inside a warm home rather than out in the elements may sound tempting, though smoking indoors should be avoided at all costs; the highest number of deaths due to house fires occur in the family room, den or bedroom, which are places people will commonly choose to smoke. When smoking, always use a solid ashtray and never put your cigarette or cigar out in vegetation or anywhere else. Also, keep all smoking devices and lighters safely away from pets and children.
4) Space Heaters
Many people could not live without one of these. They make them in all sizes, some even small enough to sit on tables or desks, and all direct air though red-hot heated coils to warm the space around them. Unfortunately, these useful appliances are responsible for over 40 percent of all heating-related fires in the US, and their use and design have remained very static over the years. These fires are almost all caused by something being placed too close to the heating face or the unit tipping over-- make sure to place them only in open spaces and keep children and pets as far away as possible!
5) Lighting and Candles
These are another obvious cause of house fires during the winter, though should be mentioned again due to their widespread use. Lighting accounts for almost half of all Christmas tree fires (heaters and fireplaces making up a large portion of the other half) and candles commonly cause fires in every room of the house. You should always make sure to replace any damaged or old string lights, never use real candles to decorate your tree, and always try to not overload your outlets or power strips. Also, use LED lights when possible-- they use less energy and don't usually get as hot.
Bonus) Power Outages
As I've written about in past blogs, you are more likely to lose power in winter rather than summer. But did you also know that you're more likely to experience a fire during a power outage too? When the lights go out, candles and generators are commonly used, both of which can cause fires if not properly situated in your home. Even worse, if a power outage is severe and goes on for a long period of time, people are more likely to turn to alternative heating methods (like burning paper and wood in a container indoors) which in many cases can cause fire or smoke damage. Having a plan in place in case of power loss could greatly help you and your family this winter.
Pay attention to your heat and light sources this season to keep your home off the list of thousands of home that go up in flames each and every year. If you do experience a fire loss during the holidays or time after, don't forget to call in a professional like SERVPRO of Bend.
Winter Roofs: How Much Snow is too Much?
Hundreds of pounds of snow could be resting above your head this winter-- make sure your roof will keep it there!
We here in Central Oregon were commonly asking ourselves this question during the winter of 17', or "Snowmageddon" as many residents fondly remember it. During that year we saw some roof collapses (along with one very serious school gym roof collapse) and many instances of damage resulting from the massive weight of wet snow collecting atop buildings. Most commercial buildings were OK: not only are most of them newer than many residential buildings in the area, but their steel and stone construction helped them weather the unrelenting snow better than other structures. But many homes, especially in the Old Bend Neighborhood and others where the homes are commonly 50+ years old, had to work to save their roofs by removing snow as best they could or have a company come out and do it for them. If you remember, there were even snow removal companies from Portland in the area, staying in hotels due to the significant workload available.
So what's the answer? How much snow is too much when it comes to your roof? Unfortunately, this isn't the easiest question to answer. Depending on the age of your home or business, the materials used, the design along with other factors, you may be able to have 4 feet of snow stacked up there all winter or be be in a lot of trouble at that point. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind. Also, some things you can do.
First of all, take a look at your roof. Is it steep and smooth or more flat and rough? Certain types of roofing material shed water and snow much faster than others, and the pitch of your roof will have a big impact on how much weight it is able to hold. Next, inspect the quality of the snow itself. Is the snow wet and heavy or dry and light? Dry, powdery snow, is hardly ever a threat to a roof collapsing even when it is many feet high; conversely, only a few feet of dense, wet snow, can cause a lot of stress to your roof and be much harder to remove if it gets to that point. Understanding the factors at play will help you determine whether or not your roof is in any danger this winter.
During the winter (especially during and after heavy snow storms) it's a good idea to check on the condition of your roof and if there are any early warning signs of damage or collapse. To start with, keep your ears open: if you hear suspicious cracking or popping sounds coming from up above, especially those that you've never heard before, it could be a sign that your roof is under strain and could be nearing dangerous territory. Next, go up into your attic (or hire someone to do it for you) and take a look at your rafters and the condition of the underside of the roof. Look for bends or cracks, along with anything else that appears abnormal. Not all cracks or irregularities are caused by a strained roof of course (I'm looking at you, termites), but they should be noted and observed for change over time. A roofing professional will be able to tell you if these things are of worry or not in your case. Also, keep an eye on the drywall and door frames inside your home and if you see any new cracks or if doors are no longer fitting the way they did before. Any change to the inside of your home could be a sign that the frame is shifting slightly due to a structural issue.
Lastly, if you feel your roof is at risk of damage or collapse, the obvious solution would be to remove some or all of the snow pressing down on it. Many new homes may not need to worry about snow removal as much; with newer building standards and improved local codes, newer structures are able to withstand much, much more of what the winter could throw at you in terms of snow. Though older buildings, especially those damaged in any way over the years, would likely be more at risk and should consider snow removal if any warning signs are observed. If you have a single-story home, you could make easy use of something called a roof rake, which, as you may have guessed, can be used to rake off some of that snow while standing safely on the ground. This would of course be preferable to climbing up onto your roof, which is a dangerous activity even in the warm summer months. If you have a two-story building, or if for whatever reason cannot clear enough snow from the lower levels yourself, contact a snow removal professional who is insured and has the proper equipment. In 2017 there were some highschool-aged boys offering to go up on people's roofs to clear snow, which you should think long and hard about before allowing due to the liability involved. Once you're able to clear some snow, though, you will be in much better shape.
If you do experience any water damage caused by a leaky or damaged roof this winter, call SERVPRO of Bend to assist with drying your home or business while the roof is being repaired. Though pay attention to your roof this winter and you will never have to worry!
Winterizing Outdoor Spigots
Don't leave these uncovered this winter! Even if you never use them they can still cause untold amounts of damage if left to freeze.
Along with covering crawl space vents for the winter, another easy thing you can do to guard against water damage this season is to cover all exterior water spigots before it gets too cold. This is a quick and inexpensive thing to do and will keep your exterior water system safe during the time of year where you won't even be using it. Here's a short list of what to do if you haven't already:
1) Disconnect all hoses
Whether it's a line to a lawn sprinkler, porch mister, or regular garden hose, always remove these from the spigot as your first step. If you wait too long to do this, the hose can trap water in the spigot and line making it much easier to freeze and cause breaks. Also, once you've disconnected the hoses, make sure they are clear of water before storing them under a deck or in a shed. This should all be done before the nights are dipping below freezing!
2) Inspect for leaks
After disconnecting hoses, you should always inspect the spigot itself to make sure there are no slow leaks or any other damage from the summer of use. Even a tiny leak from the seal or out of the mouth could be a sign of a damaged gasket which could easily begin to block the pipe with ice and eventually burst some weeks later. Replace or repair anything you see before covering for the winter-- even if you have to replace the entire spigot.
3) Drain the pipes
This step is somewhat dependent on whether or not you own a "frost-free" spigot or water attachment. Frost-free models are specifically designed to keep water well back from the spigot and exterior cold, and it may in many cases not be necessary to completely drain the line before winter. If you do not have one of these spigots, the most effective method would be to cut off the water to the pipe with an interior shut off on the main water supply, and then open the spigot and allow it to drain any excess water for a few hours. Once you are sure it is clear of water, you can close the spigot and leave the water supply disconnected.
4) Install an insulated cover
For the final step, you will simply install an insulated cover over the top of the spigot. You have probably seen them before-- small foam domes or loose bags of insulation placed over the spigot, completely covering it from the elements. This should be done to both normal and frost-free models, as even though frost-free faucets are designed to not freeze, they still can if the cold is extreme enough and their rubber gaskets and stoppers can also benefit from the added insulation. These can be picked up for a few dollars at any home improvement or hardware stores, and should be replaced during the winter if they are damaged by animals or the weather.
This easy-to-do preparation will only take you a few minutes and cost a similar amount of dollars. If you forget, or it's not done correctly, you could be looking at thousands of dollars of water damage when the spring begins to thaw everything out, and being left with a situation where you may not have use to your exterior water. Plan ahead and stay dry this winter! And, of course, if the worst happens do not hesitate to contact SERVPRO of Bend!
Burning Christmas Trees & Holiday Fire Safety
Small candles or space heaters could wreck your holiday plans this year... Fire damage is a present no one wants!
Nothing can ruin a holiday celebration quicker than a house full of smoke or a fully-engulfed Christmas tree. Every year, thousands of homes around the country are affected by fire damage during the holiday season, and many by the same things: too many lights, a tree too close to the heater, deep frying turkeys gone wrong... there are a number of reasons why fire could make an unexpected appearance at your holiday party this year, but with a little planning and attention to detail you can avoid the trauma of seeing your presents go up in smoke and continue to enjoy the holiday season.
When it comes to fire, one of the usual suspects year after year is without a doubt the Christmas tree. Kept in millions of homes around the country during the month of December or longer, these steadily-drying evergreen trees are adorned with lights, wrapped in flammable tinsel, and then set near the fire for all to see. There's even an old tradition of placing real burning candles on the branches! It shouldn't surprise you when I tell you that thousands of these trees go up in flames every year-- in some cases taking the entire home with them. To ensure this won't happen to you, keep a few things in mind this month:
-Get the freshest tree you can find
A dry tree will catch fire and burn much more easily than one fresh from the forest (or tree farm). Take a look at the needles of your tree and see if they're flexible and firmly attached or dry and fall off at the lightest touch. If your tree begins to show signs of drying out, take extra care to not place it too close to any open flames or heat sources. Also remember to water it!
-Make sure the tree is secure and is not blocking doorways
Many of you cat owners have probably, at one time or another, experienced the spontaneous upturning of your tree while you sat watching a movie or ate at the dinner table. Small children also love to yank on low-hanging tree branches on their way by, and with more people potentially in your home this holiday season there's a number of ways your tree could tip over or end up blocking someone's safe passage. Make sure the tree is properly secured and out of the way.
-Pay attention to power outlets, candles, heaters and other electronics
Trees do not combust for no reason. Either that scented candle that someone left too close, the ancient space heater tucked somewhere nearby, or sparking from an overloaded or damaged outlet, something was left too close to the tree and caused it to ignite. Keep the area around the tree clear and free of clutter to protect against this.
Closely married to Christmas tree fire safety, fireplace maintenance should also take place in your home every winter. Along with having your fireplace or woodstove inspected every few years, you should regularly have it cleaned to ensure that there is no debris in the flue, and maintain properly-fitting fire screens to keep any stray embers from leaping across the room. Also, refrain from burning anything in the fire other than wood-- things like wrapping paper and tinsel ignite very quickly and can result in a flash fire if too much is burned at once.
If you are aware of all heat sources and electronics in your living room, it is unlikely that you tree will do anything other than sit there as it always has. SERVPRO of Bend has seen what happens when carelessness turns to disaster during the holidays-- please stay safe this winter season and keep an eye on your tree!
Covering Crawlspace Vents in the Winter
Remember to cover your crawlspace vents this winter! Water, animals and anything else could be making their way under your home.
Many people ask if it is necessary to cover their crawlspace vents during the winter. If you live in Arizona it may not be an issue, but here in Central Oregon it's a no-brainer. Spending a little bit of time to acquire properly-fitting foam vent covers could mean the difference between keeping a dry and moderate-temperature crawl space until the spring, or finding large pools of water in a freezing space when it is too late.
As mentioned, areas with more moderate climates do not face the same challenges we do here in Oregon. Not only are their temperatures higher, but they do not have the same level of moisture or piles of snow that press against houses all winter long. These snow piles are a problem-- when they begin to form on the outside of your home after a heavy snowfall, not only will they impede your access to the vent, but will eventually freeze solid in the winter and slowly thaw out during the spring. If your vent is wide open to the elements, this water will likely begin to migrate into your crawlspace causing damage to insulation and even refreezing on pipes or other areas below your home.
When looking for vent covers, you will find a number of options online or in home-improvement stores. In general, look for something that will work best with your home; some vents are standard sizes and easy to fit, while others may require you to make some small adjustments yourself. Foam vent covers are always an inexpensive and effective option, and can be easily cut to fit into a odd spaces or around any wiring or piping that may be exposed. As long as they're secure enough to not be affected by animals or nasty weather, you should be in the clear.
And, as always, if you experience a problem with your crawlspace before or after the winter, do not hesitate to call SERVPRO of Bend!
Commercial Safety this Winter
Keep your employees and customers safe this winter in your commercial property.
We have recently written about things you can do to keep your commercial property safe from the elements this winter, but depending on the facility, there may be many people (employees or otherwise) who need to be kept safe too. Most know of the more obvious winter safety measures: putting down mats, salting your parking lot, snow removal etc., but there are easily-forgotten things that can also affect the safety of those on site and even your bottom line. Here are a few things to be on the lookout for this winter:
Winter is dark. For many, they go to work in the dark only to return in the dark 8 hours later. Even at 4:30, when commercial buildings are still likely operating, the general public may be on your property in the failing light and need to have a proper light source so they can see where they're walking and any other hazards that they may run into. Installing parking lot lights, running lights on exterior stairs, pathway lights and others are all a good thing, and you can even make use of motion sensors or time-activated lights to save money on your power bill.
With the colder temperatures it's no surprise that commercial facilities will be running their heating systems usually around the clock. This being the case, make sure to take a look at your thermostats (especially within a larger facility) and check to see that they are all accurate and working properly. There may be some spaces that need to be brought to a higher heat than others, some that can be left cold, and others that need to be more dynamic and adjust throughout the day. Have your heating system inspected before it gets too cold to make sure it's working properly as well. As for your cooling system, there is no better time to have it serviced than during the winter when it will not be in use. You can drain the condensate trap, shutdown the chiller and even drain the cooling tower as well to make sure there is no maintenance to be done before the summer returns. Your customers and employees will thank you for keeping the space at a comfortable temperature year round.
3) Power sources
If your commercial facility is going to lose power, it will more than likely happen during the winter. And here the stakes are higher: not only will your customers and employees be subjected to freezing conditions while on your property, but the extreme cold could even end up damaging contents that are held within, to say nothing of the various computers and servers that may host important information on site. Do yourself a favor and remember to check on any backup generators, emergency lights, or any other electronics that may be affected by a power outage. Also, ask yourself "if I lost power right now what would I do?". If you're not sure, it's time to put together an emergency checklist if this does take place.
If you pay attention to what your employees and customers are telling you, you should be able to find any problems and address them before the weather becomes much worse. Simple things like throwing down some salt or clearly marking walkways can save you from massive trouble down the line if a customer or employee ends up injuring themselves on your property. And remember-- when in doubt, call a professional. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Preventing Ice Dams
If your roof looks like this you may have a problem: ice dams can cause large amounts of damage and are not to be taken lightly.
If you've lived in a cold climate for more than a year, you have probably heard of the dreaded ice dam. An ice dam is an ice build-up on the eaves of sloped roofs of heated buildings that results from melting snow under a snow pack reaching the eave and freezing there. This can result in roof damage, where the water and ice can enter your home or business causing untold amounts of damage to the interior. Luckily, there are some things you can do to prevent this.
Adding additional insulation to an attic floor, or replacing outdated material, will greatly help keep the heat where it belongs and not seeping out into your home or the exterior. If you're not sure what to buy or how to install it, call a professional and ask for an inspection.
Paring ridge vents with soffit vents (and properly spacing them) can help circulate air beneath your roof and keep the heat from melting the snow and leading it to freeze on your eaves. Baffles on the eaves can also help keep airflow clear.
Make sure to check that all indoor vents (dryer, bathroom, kitchen hood etc.) are all leading to the top of the roof or through the walls. If these are being routed though the soffit you could easily run into a situation that too much heat is reaching below the roof, in turn leading to melting and refreezing that ice dams like so much.
4)Close the hatch
An open attic hatch can lead to heat moving to areas you don't want it. Closing this hatch, and in many cases sealing it with weather strips or something similar, is an easy and effective way to guard against ice dams.
5)Install ice dam prevention products
When all else fails, or when your type of roof for whatever reason is hard to keep cold, the final step would be to install a product on your roof specifically designed to combat the formation of ice dams. More simply, these could be a type of adhesive water-and-ice barrier that you can run 3 to 6 feet up from your gutters, or if the problem is severe, installing heating lines near the eaves that will make it physically impossible for ice to form. You can commonly see these types of products on commercial buildings where the roof may be 3 stories up, but they are available for residential homes as well. Take a look at what is available and get a second opinion if you are unsure.
More than anything, you should keep a close eye on your roof. If you see large icicles forming, or lumps of ice near the eaves, you could be in danger of ice damming and the damage that can come along with it. Don't wait and hope it melts off-- it may not until the spring.