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disasters

USDA Helps Eastern North Carolina Recover after Matthew

When Hurricane Matthew hit last month, disaster struck as high flood waters devastated communities up and down the East Coast. Agricultural producers in Eastern North Carolina were hit especially hard and suffered devastating losses to crops, livestock, and property.

Secretary Vilsack recently designated 39 counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas, in addition to 15 contiguous counties. This week, I traveled to the state to visit some of the communities that were affected. I saw a peanut farm littered with uprooted plants and cracked shells. I met with an organic tobacco producer whose top soil had completely washed away. I visited a sweet potato and soybean farm that suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. We drove by washed out roads and gutted homes with waterlogged furniture piled high on the side of the road.

Providing Rural Housing Assistance for Louisiana Flood Survivors

Last month, many parts of Southern Louisiana were faced with disastrous flooding that submerged thousands of homes and businesses and also resulted in 13 reported deaths. The flood has been called the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Seeing homes where families have spent their entire lives destroyed along with gutted furniture piled on neighborhood sidewalks is truly heartbreaking.  While distressing, I do believe that through the strength of the community, Louisiana will continue to rebuild and move forward.  I am most proud to see residents working together each day after such a tragedy.  Some of the USDA Rural Development (RD) Louisiana staff members have volunteered their time with the American Red Cross at local shelters or have helped clean out their neighbors’ damaged homes.  Despite the devastation, these RD staff volunteers have approached this work in a positive and kind-hearted manner.

Prepare Livestock and Animals Ahead of Severe Weather

It’s important to have a plan in place ahead of severe weather to protect your animals and livestock.  Pets, farm animals and livestock rely on their humans to protect them and keep them safe in all types of emergencies.  The steps we take or don’t take will directly impact their well-being.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you, your family and your animals as you just don’t know when a disaster will strike your community.

According to Dr. T.J. Myers, Assistant Deputy Administrator for the USDA APHIS Surveillance, Preparedness and Response Services, “Having a plan in place to protect animals and livestock is the best defense against severe weather.  Re-evaluating that plan periodically can make a huge difference and save valuable time during an emergency.”

When Storm Clouds Darkened the Skies in Southern Louisiana, Extension Specialists Lit up Social Media

(This guest blog describes how the Healthy Homes Partnership helped residents affected by recent flooding in Louisiana.  Healthy Homes Partnership is an interagency program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and is housed at the University of Missouri - Extension. Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you and your family as you just don’t know when a disaster will strike your community.)

By Michael Goldschmidt, national director of Healthy Homes Partnership, University of Missouri Extension

In mid-August, residents of Southern Louisiana were deluged by about two feet of rain.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the resulting flooding caused at least 13 deaths and damaged more than 100,000 homes. Several federal agencies and partners sprang into action to help, including Healthy Homes Partnership (HHP).

Are You and Your Food Prepared for a Power Outage?

Every year, the month of September is recognized as National Preparedness Month.  It is a good time to think about emergency planning for any disaster or emergency.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

Weather can be extremely unpredictable, as many communities throughout Louisiana can attest with the recent devastating flooding.  These emergencies and disasters can happen anywhere. Even if you live in an area that doesn’t typically experience extreme weather, you still might experience occasional power outages. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service can help you plan and prepare for a power outage caused by a disaster or emergency with practical food safety guidance.  You can keep this information in a place where you can quickly pull it out should you need it.

Don't be a Zombie - Prepare for Emergencies

In this guest blog, Abby Hostetler urges people to prepare for emergencies and describes an innovative display that Purdue Extension used at the Indiana State Fair to drive home that point. Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you and your family because you just don’t know when disasters will impact your community.

By Abby Hostetler, EDEN Disaster Communications Specialist, Purdue University

Nearly 60,000 visitors to this year's Indiana State Fair encountered zombies lurking around in the corners. Actually, they saw cartoon zombies that were part of an interactive exhibit, Don't Be a Zombie - Be Prepared. The exhibit consists of a walk-though maze and interactive video game designed to simulate a zombie apocalypse.

The goal is to help families learn about disaster preparedness in a fun way. In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched their Zombie Preparedness campaign to much acclaim and success. The CDC campaign was a gory take on zombies and aimed at a teenage demographic. Once the Extension Disaster Emergency Network (EDEN) got permission from the CDC to adapt the materials into an interactive display, Purdue Extension used third grade classrooms to help tie into the rise of the zombie fad in pop culture while still keeping the materials friendly to all ages.

The Year of the Flood

Incidents described as “thousand year storms and floods” and “the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy” claimed the lives of more than 58 people in Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina over the last year.  These disasters often remind us of the devastating impacts that families and their communities face after they strike.

After emergency life saving operations, food and shelter assistance are the most important priorities with which emergency managers must contend.  It was during these times that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) responded to 22 incidents by providing needed nutrition assistance.  More than half of these disasters involved severe and widespread flooding, including the most recent floods that affected residents in 22 parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Prepare to Expect the Unexpected

It’s hurricane season again.  It’s hard to believe that it was just 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and a large portion of the Gulf Coast with floods, power outages, food and water shortages, as well as many other after effects.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is a great opportunity for you, organizations, and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.  The focus this year is making sure that you and your community are prepared for six specific hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire and winter storm.

Sustainable Land Management can Provide Building Materials for Post-Disaster Recovery

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Some, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the series of earthquakes that destroyed infrastructure, homes and communities in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, capture global attention.

After natural disasters such as these, rebuilding a city needs to be efficient and cost-effective, with an eye towards resilience in the face of future disasters. Engineered wood building systems like glulam and cross laminated timber, also known as CLT, are well suited to meet these needs as they are often prefabricated offsite and can be quickly installed. That helps communities bounce back from disaster in a shorter time frame while minimizing waste. Furthermore, just as trees flex in high winds, timber structures flex in earthquakes, placing wood construction systems at the forefront of seismic design for resilience.

Rice Farmer Helps Migratory Birds, Cleans Water on Texas Coast

When 168,000 gallons of oil was reported to be spilled this spring into Texas’ Houston Ship Channel because of a collision between a barge and tanker, it was a reminder of the vulnerability of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal wildlife and habitats.

The spill served to highlight the continued need for vigilance and proactive approaches in caring for the treasured Gulf Coast region. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is one federal agency working everyday with coastal landowners, farmers and ranchers on conservation efforts aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing vital coastal resources and bird populations.