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Flooding from Irene washes out a road in southern Vermont.

Assessing Irene's Damage

Irene has come and gone, and though she had been downgraded as she moved north and many in the major metropolitan areas (I'm looking at you, NYC!) were spared she still managed to leave her mark.

Here in Vermont we had widespread flooding. They are calling this the worst natural disaster the state has seen since the flood of 1927. Numerous roads and bridges were washed out, homes have been flooded and at least one person lost her life. The President has declared a federal emergency for the state.

Here on the shore of Lake Champlain we had the power flickering on and off throughout much of the afternoon yesterday and into the evening until it finally went off for good just after sundown. I awoke to find one sailboat had been ripped from its mooring and washed up on shore.

I've heard of a few of our state's beloved and historic covered bridges being washed away by the flooding. At least one town is on water boil notice. It's going to be a while before things are back to normal, I'm afraid.

This family captured the Lower Bartonsville Covered Bridge being swept away. Warning: contains adult language. That bridge had been there since 1870. A tough loss for that community.

How has your town fared?

Photo courtesy of Elnias Be sure to check in on local evacuation notices.

Irene Sets Her Sights

AccuWeather has issued a list of major cities up the East Coast that can expect the worst from Irene as she makes her way north.

Among those major metropolitan areas in Irene's path are Charleston, S.C., Wilmington, N.C., Norfolk, Va., Washington, D.C., New York City as well as a few more.

NPR was advising us in Vermont to stock up on water and food for the weekend. It's been a while since a hurricane has forced such action on us landlocked Green Mountaineers. We're more accustomed to raiding the food shelves in preparation for a January Nor'easter.

But it's better to be safe than sorry. So on my list of items to get today/tomorrow will be:

  • Batteries

  • Dry food

  • Candles

  • Water

  • And that's about all I have right now. The essentials.

    Anyone have any other suggestions? Board games, perhaps?

    Is your home hurricane ready?

    Bracing for Irene

    Evacuations have already begun in North Carolina as Hurricane Irene makes her way towards land.

    We hope everyone along the coast escapes unscathed, and to help to that end we've put together a short list of hurricane preparedness resources that will help you protect yourselves and your homes.

  • Hurricane Overview. Courtesy of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

  • Emergency Shutoffs. Everyone should know how to turn off their electricity, gas, etc. in the face of a natural disaster.

  • Emergency Board Up. The dos and don'ts of boarding up your home.

  • Protecting Your Doors and Windows. Make sure you come back to a home intact.

  • Assemble Your Disaster Kit. Every home needs one. Does yours have one?

  • Our thoughts are with those in Irene's path.

    Craftsman is looking for unskilled DIYers to star in their upcoming online reality series SCREW*D.

    New Craftsman Reality Show Looking for (Un)Talent

    Craftsman has just launched a search for the next breakout reality show star to be part of their new online series, SCREW*D: Where Survival Comes Down to the Right Tools. Applications are being accepted through July 7 at craftsmanscrewd.com. The chosen applicant can earn up to $50,000 and will have free room and board for the duration of the show.

    Here's the rub: Craftsman are actually looking for unskilled DIYers. Specifically "anyone with swagger and a sense of humor but hapless with a hammer." Sound like you? Get that app in!

    Apparently DIY jobs gone wrong makes for good TV. Or web-streamed video. Throw some high-powered Craftsman tools into the hands of a novice and hilarity will surely ensue.

    I know I'll be watching.

    Photo courtesy of NOAA. 2010 storms Julia, Igor and Karl barrel west across the Atlantic.

    Hurricane Season Begins

    The hurricane season officially begins tomorrow (June 1) and runs through November 30. As if the country needed anymore natural disasters involving wind and rain.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released its seasonal outlook for the Atlantic basin. And things are looking grim.

    According to the report, we're in for an above-normal hurricane season this year. Specific predictions include:

  • 12 to 18 named storms, of which:

  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 39 mph or higher), including:

  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

  • Although we saw some decent tropical storm and hurricane activity last year, for the most part those storms veered away from the coastline, sparing many homes in the process.

    Will we be as lucky this year? I cannot predict the weather, but I can caution homeowners to take all available steps to prepare for the season. This means:

  • Learn how to protect your home from high winds

  • Read up on emergency board up steps for the home

  • Have a disaster kit ready

  • Let's hope the NOAA prediction is off this year and it stays quiet and dry along our coastlines.

    Give to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild Japan.

    Help Japan Rebuild

    The devastation wreaked upon the nation of Japan by the 9.0 earthquake on March 11 and the tsunami that followed have left wide swaths of the coast in ruins. Thousands upon thousands have been displaced as homes were rocked to the ground and/or swept away by the massive waves that surged across the land.

    Clean up efforts are already underway, but the nation looks -- and will continue to look -- for as much help as the world can give.

    Front and center on the relief effort side of things is Habitat for Humanity, which has mobilized volunteers to help with the clean-up process. While a long-term plan is being plotted, Habit for Humanity foresees its response to last for as long as two years.

    To get involved in the volunteer clean-up and rebuild effort, email info@habitatjp.org. Donations can be made through the Habitat website at www.habitat.org or the Habitat for Humanity Japan site at www.habitatjp.org.

    We're all wishing for the speediest of recoveries for the nation of Japan. Our hearts and minds continue to be with them in this most trying of times.

    Will your home stand up to hurricane winds?

    Testing Hurricane Winds on Homes

    The Institute for Business & Home Safety administers safety tests on real homes in specially designed chambers that can buffet the structures with hurricane-force winds to see how they stand up. It's a way to vet new materials and building methods, and, judging from the video below, it looks like it would be a pretty cool job.

    I came across this Fox News story that documented such a test on two seemingly identical homes. As the test winds exceeded 90 mph, the home that wasn't built to hurricane-resistant specifications was torn from its very foundation and soon reduced to rubble. It's worth watching, especially for anyone looking to build or buy in Hurricane-prone areas of the country.

    The Institute's website is a good resource for home preparedness against all sorts of natural disasters. Their hurricane preparedness page is particularly informative. This is suggested reading, folks! We're not quite out of hurricane season, yet.

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