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By Daisy Luther
Survival Saturday is a round-up of the week’s news and resources for folks who are interested in being prepared.
This Week in the News
This week, Survival Saturday focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the largest rainfall ever to hit the continental United States. It’s important to remember that a disaster doesn’t end when the initial event is over. It’s a series of cascading events, and Hurricane Harvey has proven this to be true yet again.
Here are the stats:
About 70% of Harris County’s 1,777 square miles was covered with 1½ feet of water at some point after the deluge, flooding about 136,000 buildings, according to county officials.
…the storm killed at least 47 people, forced the rescue of more than 72,000 and caused as much as a $100 billion in damage. (source)
Another Explosion at Arkema Chemical Plant
Since a couple of days after the storm hit, officials from Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby, Texas have warned that their plant was going to explode and there was nothing they could do about it. The system cooling the toxic chemicals stored at the plant were relying on generators to continue working. When the generators were flooded and ceased to work, officials warned that it was only a matter of time before the entire plant blew.
Small fires had been erupting across the plant, and last night, the second of nine trailers holding chemicals blew at around 6 pm Eastern time.
Rachel Moreno at the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said that the explosion was a result of the product inside the trailers reaching its combustion state, which is causing the black smoke. She said that residents should be safe if they adhere to the one-and-a-half mile evacuation zone, and advised those who are near the site to shelter in place, close all their windows and turn off their air conditioning.
Moreno said no change was made to the evacuation zone.
This is the second of nine trailers at the plant that has caught fire. The trailers each contain liquid organic peroxides, which needs to be cooled to a certain temperature, otherwise it will explode. Officials said that three of the nine trailers have lost power, according to KPRC.
At least 18 people have been injured since the first fire earlier in the week. One of the injured complained of a burning sensation in the eyes and throat and was still feeling the effects, days later.
As reported this afternoon, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office has ordered residents within a one-and-a-half mile radius to evacuate the area. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe said he fully expects the remaining trailers to catch fire, adding the best course of action would be to let the trailers “burn out.”
“The only recourse is to let the eight containers burn out,” Rowe said, according to ABC News. “It’s 500,000 pounds of material; let that material burn out.” (source)
Half a million pounds of volatile peroxides are stored at the plant in trailers, all of which are expected to blow up over the next few days. Arkema posted a partial list of the chemicals stored there.
The company also published a list of the toxic chemicals stored at the doomed facility on its web site, reposted below.
2-ETHYLHEXANOYL CHLORIDE DISTILLED
ACETIC ACID 84%
CAUSTIC POTASH 45%
CAUSTIC SODA 50%
DIMETHYL HEXANEDIOL DH-S
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE 70%
ISOBUTYLENE ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL
MINERAL OIL, WHITE
MINERAL SPIRITS ODORLESS
NEODECANOYL CHLORIDE >=98.0% UNDISTILLED
PIVALOYL CHLORIDE 95-100%
SODIUM CARBONATE ANHYDROUS LIGHT
SODIUM SULFATE ANHYDROUS
SODIUM SULFITE ANHYDROUS
SULFURIC ACID 93% REAGENT ACS
T-BUTYL HYDROPEROXIDE 70%
All of these substances are now expected to burn down, many in volatile, explosive fashion, in the coming days. (source)
At this point, winds are not propelling the smoke and fumes outside the evacuation zone, but as we’ve seen, during the aftermath of this storm, anything can happen, and there are still 7 trailers left to blow.
Gasoline Prices Spiking Across the Nation
Refineries in Houston have been shut down, as have gasoline pipelines leading to other parts of the country. As a result, Americans are seeing the highest fuel prices of the year. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean there is a fuel shortage. The shutdown of operations is a preventative measure due to the ferocity of the storm.
The states with the largest increases since Friday, when Harvey came ashore in Texas, include:
+ 19 cents – South Carolina $2.26
+ 18 cents – Delaware $2.38
+ 17 cents – Kentucky $2.42
+ 16 cents – Georgia $2.39, Missouri $2.30 and North Carolina $2.36
+ 14 cents – Maryland $2.43
+ 13 cents – Alabama $2.22 and Kansas $2.34
+ 12 cents – Mississippi $2.21, Oklahoma $2.24, Tennessee $2.26 and West Virginia $2.47
+ 11 cents – Arkansas $2.21, Iowa $2.40, Michigan $2.59, Texas $2.26 and Virginia $2.24
The last time the national gas price average was $2.50 was two years ago in August of 2015. (source)
I suspect it will be several weeks at the very least before prices decrease.
Insurance Won’t Cover the Damage for Most People
The aftermath is leading to a brand new shock for the majority of people who lost everything in the disaster: their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damage.
Only 17 percent of homeowners in the eight counties most directly affected by Harvey have flood insurance policies, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency data. When disaster hits, the policies cover up to $250,000 in rebuilding costs and $100,000 to replace personal belongings such as TVs and furniture.
Everyone else who loses their home to flooding will be dependent on private charity and government aid, especially grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency. (source)
FEMA grants are capped at $33,000. It’s very important to note that many of the areas that flooded in this hurricane were not in flood plains. This was completely unprecedented.
And these people have truly lost everything. Those who take on loans to rebuild face financial ruin. Those with mortgages will have to continue making monthly payments for homes that can’t be lived in. This is an economic catastrophe for most of the people who were hard-hit by the floods of Hurricane Harvey.
Looters and Disaster Scammers Victimize the Victims
As well, some of the dregs of humanity see the disaster as a money making opportunity and they’re going out posing as FEMA inspectors.
People are reportedly impersonating City of Houston and Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors, according to a statement from the city. They are apparently knocking on doors and attempting to break into residents’ homes. Both FEMA and city employees wear clearly labeled photo badges. The city encourages people to ask for properly labeled identification from those posing as city or FEMA employees. (source)
But that isn’t the only scam. Others target altruistic Americans as well as those who are victims of the flood.
Targeting both Harvey victims and those looking to donate to relief efforts, scam artists are using the storm – and people’s sense of charity – the swindle thousands of dollars from unwitting targets. In order to prevent any more victims, Fox News has compiled a list of some of the more popular scams and how to avoid them. (source)
The scams include:
Flood Insurance Scams: Numerous homeowners and renters throughout Texas and Louisiana are getting robocalls that inform them that their flood premiums are overdue. To make sure they’re covered for any damage from Harvey, the automated calls say, policy holders must pay immediately or risk losing it all.
Charity Scams: There have been numerous reports of people receiving phone calls, text messages, emails or posts on their social media accounts that ask for money for Harvey relief efforts.
Phishing Scams: These crooks send out messages via email or social media with links that promise to help you aid Harvey victims. Instead these links send you to bogus websites that can pinch your login and credit card information, infect computers with malware and even steal your identity.
Crowdfunding Scams: Over the last few years, crowdfunding has become one of the most popular ways for everybody from cancer patients to new businesses to raise money, with sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter leading the pack. But they could also be used by criminals as a way to bilk people donating to a cause, only to keep the money for themselves.
Copycat Scams: Similar to the phishing scams, these ploys use a name or URL that closely resembles that of well-known charitable organizations in order to trick people into thinking it is a real group. (source)
The flooding isn’t over yet. Those near the Brazos River and public reservoirs are seeing waters rising. Both mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been issued for residents living near these water sources. (source)
As well, engineers are performing controlled releases of water from the Addick and Barker Reservoirs to prevent uncontrolled releases at the spillways.
Both reservoir outlet gates are open and releasing storm water into Buffalo Bayou. House flooding is occurring in adjacent neighborhoods, and roadways that run through the reservoirs are underwater.
Some 3,000 homes near Addicks reservoir and 1,000 homes near Barker are inundated due to water release, Lindner said Wednesday morning.
After an area of the levee eroded on Wednesday morning, officials enforced mandatory evacuations for residents in the Cyprus Creek/Inverness Forest subdivision. Officials said a breach is not likely, but possible.
A portion of the levee eroded after water came over the top of the intake system. Several agencies worked on Wednesday to remedy the situation by bringing sand to the area. (source)
As well, there are many major health hazards related to flood water. As people try to clean up their homes and salvage their belongings, they’ll be exposed to all sorts of concerning threats, like diseases, injuries, insects, and displaced wild animals. This article goes into detail about them so you can be better prepared.
The next disaster is already en route to our shores.
In the week ahead, people on the East Coast are growing concerned about Hurricane Irma, a tropical storm in the Atlantic that is so strong some meteorologists want to give it a new category: Category 6.
To put this in perspective, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 when it made landfall and Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4. Hopefully, Irma will lose power or veer away from the Eastern coastline, but at this point, she’s loaded for bear and could bring winds of more than 180 miles per hour. (Go here for more information about Irma.) If Irma does not change course (fingers crossed that she does), the storm is expected to make landfall toward the end of this week.
A storm like this will not just affect the coast. This map shows how far inland the effects may be felt.
Good bet at a casino is an intense Hurricane Irma at Cat 4 or 5. But it's still red or black on U.S. impacts. Hope it's a "fish storm" pic.twitter.com/w6rWbbGVts
Are you prepared for an epic disaster? Because it looks like few places are safe anymore. And keep in mind, it isn’t just the disaster you have to worry about. It’s the aftermath of power outages, crime, and disease.
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