Tag Archives: wind


The Washington State area devastated by a mudslide Saturday, March 22nd, has seen much clear-cut logging.  Native American tribes and environmentalists have long warned that clear-cut logging could raise the risk of landslides.  Although the mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest may appear solid and stolid, they are a geologically active part of the physical environment, including regular earthquakes, landslides, and the occasional volcano. Sometimes, human activities – including the clear-cut logging that patch-marks much of the region – have an important impact on forests, soils, and water patterns. 

The massive mudslide that hit  Saturday, March 22,  about 55 miles northeast of Seattle was part of that picture, all but wiping out the community of Oso across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.  As rescue and recovery efforts continued Friday morning, officials reported that the number of confirmed dead remains at 17 with another nine bodies located but not yet recovered. Ninety more individuals are still unaccounted for – large numbers in a small community of around 180 people.

The demand for lumber, plywood, paper, and other wood products is part of an industry that once dominated Washington State and Oregon.  Logging’s impact has been a concern for a number of years. Large, older trees take up more water than younger stands, which can take decades to mature and may be cut down before they reach full maturity. The Tulalip Tribes were so concerned with landslides hitting the Stillaguamish River and its prime salmon habitat that they blocked a proposed timber sale above an earlier slide in 1988.”There were some very large clear-cuts planned for that area, which made us very concerned,” Kurt Nelson, a hydrologist with the tribes, told KUOW, the NPR affiliate at the University of Washington in Seattle.  “That reach of the North Fork has multiple, ancient, deep-seated landslides,” Mr. Nelson said. “There’s a lot of unstable terrain in that area.”  Landslides have followed logging in that area at least four times, KUOW reported.

“This had been known at least since the ’50s as one of the more problematic areas on the Stillaguamish for perennial landslides,” Mr. Kennard,  (Geomorphologist Paul Kennard, who worked for the Tulalip Tribes in the 1980s and now works for the National Park Service at Mt. Rainier) reported.  Although state logging regulations have been tightened in recent years, The Seattle Times reports that a clear-cut nine years ago “appears to have strayed into a restricted area that could feed groundwater into the landslide zone that collapsed Saturday.” 

Heavy rains and winds are hampering rescue efforts, by both professional rescue teams and volunteers. The careful use of heavy equipment, helicopters, and other means of rescue continue.  Personnel are wading through debris, muck, trees, ice, and foul water.

 Meanwhile, the request by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for more federal assistance to help with recovery efforts in the Oso area has been approved. The money will be used to help local and state government agencies recover a portion of the estimated $4.5 million expected to be spent on emergency response, protective measures, and debris removal. Safety precautions should be used by all; pros and volunteers.  Wearing respiratory protection, gloves, goggles, hardhats, and protective clothing is important for the safety of those exposed to all types of hazards.

At his briefing Friday, Snohomish County Fire District Chief Travis Hots asked corporations and businesses in the region to donate money to help those affected. “Some of these people have lost their homes, some have lost their cars, some have lost their entire family,” he said. “Funerals will have to be paid for. Please dig deep.”  Chief Hots is the spokesman for search and recovery efforts.


Source: Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press


If it’s a tornado or severe thunderstorm – NEVER is too soon!  It seems very early for twisters, but on the last day of February, into the morning hours of March 1st, at least 18 tornadoes left their aftermaths in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana.  These terrible tornadoes were spawned by a powerful storm system that blew in from the Rockies on Tuesday.  The latest death count was 12 persons, with more expected, as several severe injuries were reported; rescue efforts are being made throughout the hardest hit places, whether small towns or cities.  Branson, Missouri, was ravaged, as hotels and theaters were hit just days before their tourist season starts.  According to news sources, Branson would be host to around 60,000 visitors on any given day during their busy season. Harrisburg, Illinois, experienced an EF4 tornado, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage.  Scientists say it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.  According to the National Weather Service, more tornado watches are in effect today for Kentucky and Tennessee.  Last year, tornadoes killed 550 people in the United States, and caused $28.7 billion in damages.  Mississippi and Alabama were hit especially hard. 

In an article written last April by Bryan Walsh, about “The Hows and Whys of A Possibly Record-Breaking Tornado Month”, the focus was on April, 2011, going down as a record-breaking month for tornadoes, even worse than April, 1954, when an estimated 407 tornadoes struck. April 27, 2011, saw 139 separate tornadoes being reported on that one day, ripping through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia, killing at least 200 people.  April 3, 1974,  a tornado that killed 315 people was reported.  Walsh continues: “Those statistics don’t convey the sheer terror and destruction brought on by these storms.”

Everyone wants to know: What Is Causing It? 

Andrew Freedman of the Washington Post’s great Capital Weather blog, explains the conditions behind monster tornadoes.  “In order for tornadoes to form, several factors have to combine in just the right way:

  • warm and humid atmosphere;
  • strong jet stream winds;
  • atmospheric wind shear;
  • a mechanism to ignite this violatile mixture of ingredients –a cold front.

 Many folks want to know is if climate change plays a role in those tornadoes, and if the world continues warming, will we see more destructive cyclones like these?  As Bryan Walsh states, even scientists don’t know.  Many of the tornadoes would have been missed by meteorologists in earlier days before Doppler radar and the Weather Channel.  Now, experts could almost never overlook an actual tornado touchdown, no matter how weak or brief.  Warmer temperatures and more moisture will give storm systems  much more energy to play with, like adding nitroglycerin to the atmosphere.  Waters of the Gulf of Mexico are warm, and feed moisture northward to storm systems as they move across the country, and when that moisture meets cold, dry air from the Plains, can result in some powerful weather conditions.

We have previously talked about being prepared by having a home safety kit ready.  Last year, I subscribed to a weather alert system from a Dallas TV Station, and it works great.  This system provides us with a timely alert by email, landline, and cell phone.  When both phones start ringing at the same time, we know a familiar meteorologist is giving us warning to seek shelter with information as to a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, or tornado watch or warning.  We must be as prepared as possible, although there may not be time to take anything out of your home but yourself and your pets.  Please do not get in a car to try to outrun a tornado.  Find a safe spot in your home, away from windows, either in a hallway or bathroom.  For any emergency, it’s a good idea to have medications and nonperishable food, along with three days supply of water, ready in a container if you must leave your home.  Keep first aid kits, in your home and car.  If you are outdoors, experts advise you to seek shelter, (storm cellar or basement.)  If that isn’t possible, get in a ditch, or the lowest place you can find, and not under an underpass. 

We must remember that tornadoes and other stormy seasons have always been with us.  We can keep people from being killed by those storms through better forecasting, better building and better emergency preparation.  We have actually improved over the years through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration statistics showing that the number of Americans killed by tornadoes  per capita has steadily declined since the 1920’s.  A warmer world may cause us to experience more severe weather, and a more populated world will mean more people at risk from those events.  Therefore, we need to encourage lawmakers to support vital agencies like the NOAA and National Weather Service in disaster preparation and response, rather than impose budget cuts.  For people in the south and Midwest, these entities’ remaining strong is of the utmost importance.  The entire country needs to know they can count on these important warning services. 

Source: Bryan Walsh,  ABC News, Ft Worth Star-Telegram


“OSHA describes scissor lifts as machines that are “movable scaffolds.”  They can lift large, heavy loads that are well balanced, as well as employees, and are capable of moving them safely to and from high elevations.  There are several different safety requirements that apply to the maintenance and use of scissor lifts, because they are classified as heavy equipment.”  This is an excerpt from an article we published in August of this year.  Thankfully, a reader and friend from the United Kingdom has written an outstanding article that gives us a good perspective regarding safety and scissor lifts.  Please enjoy the following Guest Post:

5 Scissor Lift Safety Do’s and Don’ts

In operating heavy machineries it is important for the operators of these machines to be aware of the safety procedures and guidelines in order to avoid accidents and injuries. Safety should be the primary concern of operators when workers are doing their jobs using heavy machines. The time to finish jobs when following safety procedures will be longer but the risks will be lower and the chance of delay in the operation on account of accidents and injuries will be reduced. Also, the chances of lawsuits will be lower in cases of work related accidents and injuries if safety guidelines are followed strictly.

Colleges have been using aerial lifts for reasons other than their intended purpose. The most frequent use of scissor lifts is the filming of football practices to get an aerial view of college teams. This practice has been deemed unsafe because the person holding the camera might be blown over by a sudden gust of wind and there are no safety regulations and guidelines being followed to prevent that sort of thing.

A twenty year old has died because of the failure of university officials to set safety guidelines when using scissor lifts. Investigations were made by the university where the unfortunate incident happened and they found out after a few months after the incident that the policies of the university regarding the safety procedures and safeguards in using scissor lifts were not adequate to prevent accidents like the one that happened.  After that, other colleges have looked into their own policies when using machines such as these.  For the purpose of preventing accidents from happening when using scissor lifts here are 5 guidelines to follow.

1.       Use it for raised platform working, but don’t overload

Scissor lifts are just like any machine, they can perform the jobs needed from them but they also have a limit. Scissor lifts are primarily used for raising up things or people so they can do their tasks from an elevated platform. The weight of the things to be raised is a priority in safety because as the platform is raised, the base on which it is anchored becomes unstable as it goes higher. Once the platform becomes unstable outside forces like winds or a shake in the base will greatly affect the raised platform which can lead to accidents.

2.       Use it to transfer materials, but don’t rush

When transferring materials to high places it is always recommended to be sure and steady. As the adage goes “haste makes waste.” Caution should always be practiced when using heavy machinery and when dealing with machines that extend many feet above the ground.

3.       Use lanyards but follow the Ghostbusters’s rule (don’t cross the streams)

Lanyards are used as a safety option when operating machinery. It is attached to a worker’s wrist and in case the worker becomes incapacitated when operating the machine, the fall will enable the lanyard to pull the “kill switch” which is also attached to the lanyard and stop the machine from operating. However, another precaution should also be in place in order for the lanyards to be effective as a safety measure. Workers must make sure that their lanyards are not intertwined or are not crossing the streams as the safety precaution of lanyards will be compromised.

4.       Stay inside the guard rails, don’t over extend or stand on the rails

Persons who are tasked to be on the platform should always bear in mind that the guard rails are there for a reason. It is for their own protection to keep their bodies in the guard rail all the time. There are some circumstances and sometimes they cannot be avoided, that require a worker to reach out over the platform to perform a task. But one should be vigilant to not lean over or reach out too much to a point of over extending one’s self beyond the guardrails. Standing on the rails should also be avoided. The safety hazards of such act are innumerable and are subjected to every kind of outside forces that will cause a person to lose balance and fall. If there is an urgent need to go higher to perform a task it is better to raise up the platform itself rather than stand on the guard rails.

5.       Move the platform for different areas but not while the platform is extended.

When moving heavy machineries or any mechanical device for that matter, it is best to be cautious when transporting them from one place to another. The platform of the scissor lift should be brought back to its original place in the machine before moving the whole thing, just like when one would move a car or an oven, it is best to close the doors first so it won’t bump into other things while in transit. The same safety concept should be adopted when moving the platform of a scissor lift. In order to avoid accidents and injuries the extended platform should be lowered first before moving from one place to another.

In any job requiring the use of machines, especially heavy machinery it is very important to follow the safety guidelines while operating them. Operators should be strict in enforcing these guidelines to ensure a safe working environment for people using heavy machineries like scissor lifts. An unfortunate accident already happened because of the lack of safety standards in the use of scissor lifts outside of construction sites, like in colleges. The safety guidelines should be addressed by colleges when their students are using machineries like scissor lifts. There are standard safety guidelines to be followed strictly in order to avoid accidents when using scissor lifts.

We thank Allan Twillert, a Marketing Consultant that writes for Horizon Limited Platforms, a construction machine rental solution company in the United Kingdom.  For more information on Allan’s company, go to info@horizonplatformsco.uk.  It is an honor for us to hear from our friends in other countries who , like us, are very concerned about the safety of workers and students.


It’s hard to say if the old saying “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb,” applies to every part of the world.  It seems like the lion has been showing more of his teeth lately, with the horrible tragedies in Japan – an earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear concerns.  Also, in the United States, tornadoes have already hit several areas.  Every year they start a littler earlier, or so it appears!  Floods, as well, have occurred as a result of heavy rains in certain parts of the country, and drought in others.  It’s either feast or famine, when it comes to the weather. 

In the eastern United States, March came in like a lamb, but is really threatening to go out like a lion.  In Texas, we have seen a few beautiful spring days; however, we have experienced some very unusually cold and windy March days, too.  Whatever has gone on in your corner of the world, it is hoped that it will get better soon.  April hopefully will bring showers, as rain is really needed in our state.  The threat of wildfires continues because of  extremely dry conditions. 

It is hard to realize that the first three months of 2011 have already passed us by.  We need to start preparing for spring and warm weather.  A few pretty days get us motivated to get outside and start yard work.  Take your time and gradually build up, as those muscles may not be quite ready for a full-throttle workout.  Stock up on work gloves, Eye safety glasses,  (for trimming tree limbs and mowing grass), and wear long-sleeves on your arms, and sunscreen on your face.  Spring brings a new beginning for the rest of the year, and it’s a time we all look forward to – before the heat comes around!  

Think about stocking up your emergency kit just in case bad weather should happen.  Keep plenty of water handy, some non-perishable foods, flashlights, NOAA weather radio, batteries, pet food, and other supplies ready.  Pay attention to weather warnings in your area.  Know where you can pick up your school children in case of a weather emergency, or where they will be taken for safety at their school.  Preparedness pays, regardless of weather conditions, or any other emergency situation.  Most everyone loves springtime, and yet Mother Nature can find ways to really get our attention during that season.   

Last, but not least, here’s hoping that everyone’s final day of March will mosey on out like a sweet little lamb.  But beware……….there’s one more thing to be prepared for:  April Fools’ Day!


The old saying “when it rains, it pours,” infers that there’s usually been too much of a bad thing.  Australia has certainly experienced more than their share of weather-related happenings: a cyclone on the eastern coast, and flooding from drenching rains in Queensland and southern Victoria.  Now, in Perth, in Western Australia, wildfires are destroying homes, forcing many to evacuate.  February is the last month of summer in that country, bringing the height of monsoon season, in addition to being the riskiest time for wildfires. 

The United States has already begun to experience wildfires in several areas of the country:  from California, eastern New Mexico, western Texas and the panhandle of Texas, to the Carolinas and the east Coast.   Because brisk winds accompany warmer days, red flag warnings and fire danger warnings are commonplace, as some areas are beginning to see a gradual warmup.  Spring and warmer temperatures cause an earlier snowmelt in the mountainous areas, leaving the vicinities dryer overall, creating a longer season in which a fire can start.  Don’t let your home and property become fuel for a wildfire.  We want to share these suggestions from the Texas Forest Service about steps you can take to reduce your risk for damage from wildfire:

  • Keep leaves and other debris cleared from gutters, eaves, roof, porches and decks.  They can cause embers that can ignite your home.
  • Clear vegetation around your home at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
  • Landscape with native and less-flammable plants.  Check with your state forestry agency for information.
  • Dispose of debris and lawn cuttings quickly.
  • Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including sheds and garages.  If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck, or porch.
  • Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire; keep your lawn hydrated and maintained.
  • Remove branches from trees to a height of 15’ or more.  Wildfire can spread to tree-tops.  Be sure the lowest branches are 6’ to 10’ high.
  • LPG tanks should be far enough from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire.  Keep area around tank clear of flammable vegetation.
  • Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.
  • Establish fuel breaks along roadways and buildings and fields or woodlands, if you live in a rural area.
  • Any combustibles – firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, and stacked lumber should be kept away from all structures.
  • Have fire tools handy, such as:  shovel, rake and buckets for water, as well as a ladder tall enough to reach your roof.
  • Keep water hoses connected on all sides of your home for emergency use.
  • Be certain that you and your family know all emergency exits from your home and neighborhood.

These are excellent ideas to help keep the exteriors of our homes less susceptible,  in case of any type of fire;  even those who don’t live in an area of a possible wildfire.  

I have seen first-hand the devastation wildfires can cause.  A few years ago, a small community and its’ surrounding area were almost totally wiped out because of a wildfire.  Persons lost their homes and everything in them.  Because of extremely dry, windy conditions, wildfires were happening in many parts of Texas, all around the same time, (in the spring), causing not only the loss of homes, but churches and businesses.  Cattle and wild animals were trapped inside fenced pastures, with no way to get out.  

If additional senseless and potentially deadly wildfires are to be avoided, everyone must exercise extreme caution with all potential sources of wildfire ignition.  Careless debris burning is one of the major causes of wildfires.   First, and foremost, stay informed about wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning.  Check to see if weather changes are expected.  Postpone outdoor burning until your area greens up, and check with your local fire department to determine if bans on outdoor burning have been lifted.  If you decide to burn, have a water hose ready, and stay with all outdoor fires until they are completely out. 

Source: Texas Forest Service


In many sections of the United States, you have probably seen these tall, windmill-looking structures on the landscape. They look very peaceful, gracefully creating a new type of power to help energize our country.

Wind turbines have been used in Europe for a number of years, and in the past several years have become popular in the U.S.  Mechanical power from windmills is used to pump water, energy for grinding, etc.

Working opposite of a fan, which makes wind, turbines use wind to make electricity.  The huge blades spin a shaft inside, which connects to a generator and makes electricity.  A large group of these turbines contribute energy to the utility grid of power companies, and in turn, are distributed to homes, schools, and businesses.

  1. For persons who are contemplating using this type of energy, there are many things to be considered. The cost of interconnecting with the electric company, insurance in case the turbine causes damage or problems to utility systems, and liability insurance for damage to nearby properties.
  2. One of the hazards of the turbines are icing of blades, which could result in shedding of ice.Severe weather might cause problems.
  3. Blade throws are another hazard mentioned; however, these wind turbines are state-of-the-art and very safe. Equipped with sensors, blade throws are virtually non-existent.  The turbines have controllers that start the turbine when the wind is 8 to 16 MPH, and stop it if the wind reaches 55 MPH, due to risk of damage.
  4. Lastly, studies have been done by several medical experts that in certain cases, there is a correlation between persons who have been exposed for long periods of time to low frequency noise and vibration and living too close to a wind farm, that have experienced health problems.

Because every contractor is concerned with safe operations, the wind energy industry poses unique safety concerns.  The size of the propellers and remote location of the wind farms are two issues.  There has been a lack of a cohesive industrial study for wind project safety; however, a process has recently begun by an ANSI A10 subcommittee made up of wind industry experts and safety professionals.  As with any industry, training and planning are key elements to successful safety programs.

Issues being considered are:

  • On-Site Rescue: because of their remote locations, emergency personnel are not close by or may not be equipped with tools necessary to rescue persons from high structures.  Personnel of the contractor must be trained and able to reach injured workers, getting them to the ground and ready for local EMS to take over.
  • Weather Planning: Because some of the farms are located where harsh conditions exist, such as high winds, dust, ice, rain, the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment must be used, and workers must be trained to recognize when weather circumstances exceed safe working conditions.
  • Multiple Contractors: Several specialty contractors are involved in building wind farms, and all have to work in close proximity with each other.  Each contractor should know what hazards are present in the project, and communicate this information with all other contractors.  Communication is necessary to have successful safety performances.

It will be fascinating to see how many more of these wind farms will be built.  It’s a great plan to help with the demand for energy that is needed to keep our country going.