Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virginia Earthquake Resources

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit in Virginia August 31 at 1:51pm EST. No reports of injuries but buildings evacuated, and nuclear power plants shut down. Here are some resources on this:

USGS Information page for this earthquake
Google News search for earthquake virginia
Twitter search for #earthquake OR #equs OR #vaeq OR #dcquake
Washington Post blog entry
Virginia Seismic Zone on Wikipedia
Radioreference.com live scanner feeds
ESRI earthquake map (crowdsourced)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hurricane Irene Resources

As of the 7PM EDT Saturday update, Irene was a Category 1 hurricane weakening slightly to maximum sustained winds of around 80 mph.  Here are some resources for tracking the storm. I will keep this page updated as the storm develops. Please also check out the dashboard and resources tabs on this site for more resources.

For those in the path of Irene, you can get official general forecasts from the National Hurricane Center, and local information from the NWS Hurricane Local Statements. You can also find twitter feeds of your local emergency management officials on the excellent Map of reliable twitter feeds. General preparation advice can be found on the FEMA blog.

Check out this book and this book to help you prepare for the next disaster!

Tracking tools & general information sources
National Hurricane Center - official watches, warnings, advisories, probability cones, etc
Hurricane Local Statements - for specific areas
Stormpulse - Hurricane Irene - high quality maps and tracking tools
Weather Underground Irene Tracking Page - nice tracking resources
Weather.com Irene Tracking Page
VueToo Irene Situation Page - multiple concurrent maps of Irene's status
FEMA blog (weather updates) - updates and preparation information.
Hurricane Irene Wikipedia Page
Central Florida Hurricane Center (aggregates information relating to Florida)
Tampa Bay Online Hurricane Guide - with local resources for Florida
Florida Sun-Sentinel Hurricane Page

Social media tools
Google News on Irene- hits for Irene on Google News
Google Map - Annotated with information about Irene (also below)
Irene Twitter/Weather Map - shows radar image plus markers linking to twitter hashtags for locations
Map of reliable twitter feeds - shows feeds of local emergency management agencies, etc
Project EPIC Tweak-the-Tweet map - categorized twitter posts plotted on a map
Google Crisis Response Map - a variety of information can be projected on a map
Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker - blog with updates and discussion
ESRI Tweet Map - map with hurricane track and tweets
Crisis Commons Wiki - lists of data sources for Irene
OASIS map with NYC evacuation centers
Red Cross Shelters on map

News reports & pictures
Pictures of Irene impact from Puerto Rico (Washington Post)
Video of Irene taken from International Space Station (NASA)

Other tools & information
Hurricane Watch Net - streaming audio during active events
Radio Reference Wiki Major Events - radio frequencies and such like for major disasters (should they happen)

View Hurricane Irene in a larger map

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Strong geomagnetic solar storm hits earth

Last night's geomagnetic storm was classified as "strong" on the NOAA Space Weather scale, threatening to cause some disruptions in satellite communications, and possibly in power systems. At one point, the Kp index (a measure of the amount of geomagnetic disturbance - see my guide to solar weather)  hit "8" which is pretty impressive (see picture). As it happens, there don't seem to have been any really significant disruptive effects from this storm, but we should take this as a wake-up call. As we approach the 2013 solar sunspot maximum, NASA is predicting around four "extreme" events, and many severe events. As I discussed previously, such events could cause a widespread, long-lived power outage. Even a widespread outage of a few days could cause some big problems for nuclear power plants. Such a long term power outage really needs to be on our preparedness radar - both for individuals (e.g. by keeping a rolling food store) and for emergency managers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tropical Storm Emily Resources

As of 5PM Thursday, Tropical Storm Emily has been downgraded and is not expected to produce significant wind damage (although 2-4 inches of rainfall are expected). Here are some resources for tracking the storms. I will keep this page updated as the storm develops. Please also check out the dashboard and resources tabs on this site for more resources. 

National Hurricane Center - official, watches, warnings, advisories, probability cones, etc
Google News on Emily- hits for Emily on Google News
Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker - blog with updates and discussion
Hurricane Watch Net - streaming audio during active events (not yet for Igor)
Radio Reference Wiki Major Events - radio frequencies and such like for major disasters (should they happen)

Monday, August 1, 2011

How long will my cell phone work in a power outage?

Having lived through the Great Northeast Power Outage of 2004, one thing that struck me was the that some peoples' cellphones stopped working immediately (i.e. couldn't find a tower) and some kept on working throughout the outage. That was 2004: in 2010, with our daily reliance on cell phones and smartphones for communications, one would image that cell towers would as standard practice have power backup to last at least a couple of days. However, this may be over optimistic. In 2008 a proposal by the FCC to require cellular carriers to have 8 hours power backup on their towers (yes, that's just 8 hours!) was fiercely resisted by the cellphone carriers on the basis that it would be impossibly expensive to implement, and was subsequently nixed by the White House.

Of course the most useful information would be to know what provisions different carriers take to keep their sites going in a power outage, but this information seems almost impossible to find. Anecdotally, most towers seem to be active for several hours in a power outage, but this seems to vary widely by region and carrier. There are some encouraging signs for the future though: for example T-mobile just installed their first grid-independent solar powered cellular tower.

Does anyone have any clues on this one? Either experience as a user or actual knowledge of what particular companies' policies are? If so, please leave a comment!