Fire ants: One more danger lurking in the waters of flood-ravaged Texas

Published: Monday, August 28, 2017 @ 5:55 PM

Fire Ants: Flood Water Danger

Add one more thing to dangers lurking in Texas floodwaters: fire ants.

Several social media users have tweeted pictures of floating rafts of fire ants they spotted in Harvey floodwaters. While the formations may shock some (and terrify most) the living structures are nothing new.

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Fire ants are “one of few insects capable of building big structures with their bodies by linking them together, according to Vox

The rafts are formed by a lot of ants “basically holding hands” in order to stay near the queen, and in order to “generate a waterproof weave,” the news site reports.

According to an American-Statesman story in 2015 about flooding in South Carolina: 

“In an effort to survive fire ants can link together to form these masses in under two minutes. They will then tip their 'raft' into the water before they are completely submerged, and can survive this way for up to 12 days. Once the living raft hits land the ants will separate and leave the water. The queen is kept safe in the middle of the raft, while fire ant workers protect larvae and eggs by keeping them in their mouths. Entomologist Tim Davis warned residents to avoid the ants at all costs. 'If one of those rafts comes in contact with you, or you try to break it apart, it will likely disperse and crawl up you,' he said.”

>> Related: Alligators in metro Houston floodwaters making conditions even scarier

Ants, however, may be the least of storm-weary Texans’ worries. Warnings about alligators and fears over snake infestations seem to rank higher in the scheme of things.

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Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 4:54 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 4:54 PM

Get Ahead of the Storm - 5 Severe Weather Hacks

There’s really no place that’s 100 percent safe in Florida when it comes to hurricanes.

Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

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And, although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2016. 

Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.

The top 10 safest cities in Florida during a hurricane, according to the insurance study, are:

  1. Leesburg
  2. Orlando
  3. Sanford
  4. Kissimmee
  5. Palatka
  6. Lake City
  7. Naples
  8. Ocala
  9. Gainesville
  10. Fernandina Beach


The entire ranking is below.

Read more about the Home Insurance study here.

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9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 5:21 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 5:21 PM

What are the Differences Between Hurricane Categories?

Whenever a hurricane is poised to strike a region, there are several terms meteorologists use that might not be familiar.

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Here are common ones you should know as you keep your eye on the storm’s path: 

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Feeder band

Lines or bands of low-level clouds that move (feed) into the upper region of a thunderstorm, usually from the east through south.

This term also is used in tropical meteorology to describe spiral-shaped bands of convection surrounding, and moving toward, the center of a tropical cyclone.

Squalls

When the wind speed increases to at least 16 knots and is sustained at 22 knots or more for at least one minute.

Storm surge

An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. The height is the difference between the normal level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.

>> Related: What is storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

Eye wall

An organized band or ring of clouds that surround the eye, or light-wind center, of a tropical cyclone. Eye wall and wall cloud are used synonymously.

Sustained winds

Wind speed determined by averaging observed values over a two-minute period.

Computer models

Meteorologists use computer models to figure out a storm’s path and its potential path. The models are based on typical weather patterns.

Advisory

Official information describing all tropical cyclone watches and warnings in effect along with details concerning tropical cyclone locations, intensity and movement, and precautions that should be taken.

Hurricane watch

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Hurricane warning

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

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How to keep your kids entertained when stuck at home by severe weather

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 5:19 PM

How To Entertain Your Kids When You're Trapped By Weather

When severe weather keeps you inside your home with your children, there are things you can do to keep kids entertained while you keep your sanity.

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If you're home for the day, or a few days, here are a few things you can do to stay entertained without going crazy or running up your data plans.

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If you still have power:

Do some family-friendly baking:

One way to keep kids occupied is with a slew of simple cooking tasks (cracking eggs, manning the mixing bowl) and the promise of sweets.

Cooking Light has a roundup of “kid-friendly desserts,” including gluten-free s'more bars, chewy caramel apple cookies and more. If you run through that list, the Food Network has another.

And not having kids is no reason not to bake in bad weather: for company, just sub in the closet available roommates, family, friends or pets. (This advice applies to the rest of the list.)

Check out these party games:

Jackbox's Drawful is a bizarre twist on Pictionary: players score points not just for drawing the best possible version of, say, "angry ants"; but also for getting other players to guess their answer for a given drawing instead of the correct one.

Drawful comes packaged as part of the Jackbox Party Pack and is available to buy and download here, and is compatible with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Amazon Fire TV and others. All you need to play is a phone, tablet or controller. 

But if you're feeling more competitive and less artistic, consider QuizUp. Available for both iPhone and Android. This competitive trivia app pits two players against each other in seven rounds of questions in one of several hundred different categories, including pop culture and academia. And it's free. 

Get crafty:

Create a crafting area in your home. Fill it with crafting materials like tape, paper and boxes. When inspiration strikes your child, they can create fun things in their own “workshop.”

Power outages are common during severe weather because high winds can knock trees into electrical lines, causing blackouts.(Gordon Donovan/Getty Images)

Without power:

Get clever:

When the house goes dark, kids’ imaginations light up. A trip to the bathroom with a flashlight can become an adventure, and reading stories by candlelight will stick with them more than just another movie night. 

Get ahead of a power outage:

Stock up on glow sticks. Kids can really have fun with these simple light sticks. Once you crack them, they provide a bright light for up to 12 hours and a dim light for as long as 36 hours. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, and can provide hours of fun for children.

Build a fort:

Kids love building forts just for fun anyway. So if you find yourself in the dark without power, gather up pillows and blankets, and plan on moving some furniture around to help your little ones build the perfect fortress. You can even make it more like an adventure. Plan to snuggle in for the night, and maybe tell a few ghost stories, too.

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Why is the sun red, the sky yellow in London? 

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 5:44 PM

The Reason For The Red Sun And Yellow Skies In London

An eerie weather phenomenon across parts of the United Kingdom is turning the skies an anemic yellow color and making the sun appear blood red.

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The anomaly is not the beginning of the end of days or a sign of the apocalypse, scientists said. Instead, it’s directly related to Hurricane Ophelia, which is whipping through the region.

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The storm’s tropical air dragged in dust from the Sahara Desert and air pollution from wildfires in Spain and Portugal as it moved north through the Atlantic, creating the strange spectacle, the BBC reported.

The sky in France's Brittany region also turned yellow on Monday, Oct. 16,2017 as nearby Hurricane Ophelia brought a mix of sand from the Sahara and particles from Spain and Portugal's forest fires over the region. (David Vincent/AP)

“The dust gets picked up into the air and goes high up into the atmosphere, and that dust has been dragged high up in the atmosphere above the UK,” BBC weatherman Simon King said, according to the Express.

The blood-red sun Monday morning across the region is a result of the same weather phenomenon creating the yellow skies, according to the U.K.’s  Meteorological Office or Met Office.

“The same southerly winds that have brought us the current warmth have also drawn dust from the Sahara to our latitudes and the dust scatters the blue light from the sun letting more red light through much as at sunrise or sunset,” Met officials said on the agency’s website.

>> Related: Yellowstone supervolcano could erupt much sooner than predicted, study reveals

Social media users in London chronicled the spectacle on Twitter.

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