Entries in Hurricane Irene (8)


Hurricane Irene's Flooding May Bring On Allergy Symptoms

ABC News (CHICAGO) -- Hurricane Irene may have dissipated into the universe, but it continues to wreak havoc on home and health.

Experts warn that the excessive flooding that followed Irene could cause a surge of mold. For those with allergies, this can mean coughing, sneezing and wheezing galore.

"As Northeasterners, we're not really accustomed to hurricanes, and as a result, we're not accustomed to the ramifications," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of N.Y. "People are coming in for mold-related symptoms and pollen allergies. It's like the perfect storm."

About one-third of all those with allergies are sensitive to mold. Allergic reactions to the fungi include nasal congestion and sneezing. Asthmatics will experience chest congestion, coughing and difficultly in breathing.

"Just because you don't see it or smell it doesn't mean the mold isn't there," said Bassett. "Dust mites love mold and moisture, so you're going to have an indoor allergy and asthma problem if it's not taken care of."

Those who have compromised immune systems from underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders, HIV and cancer are at greater risk of severe health problems, including pneumonia, triggered by mold.

"Exposure to mold is a real problem, for people with allergies and even in people who don't have allergies," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. If you can remediate the mold, you can get to your baseline and avoid problems."

Pollen is also seeing a spike and people with allergies are seeing the effects of that too.

"The excess water is feeding the water table and these ragweed plants surrounded by all this water are priming the pump," said Bassett.

After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, experts coined the term "Katrina cough" after so many people in the area experienced respiratory illness brought on by mold and dust. Symptoms included cough, headache, nasal congestion, pink eye and sore throat.

To avoid such an aftermath while cleaning up Irene's mess, Bassett recommended several devices and techniques, such as using an N95 mask to prevent inhaling the allergens.

Water and bleach is effective in killing mold and reducing in the future, said Bassett. Use caution when removing water-damaged items that can result in the release of microscopic molds into the air of the home. In some cases, a sensitive person may experience immediate respiratory symptoms if mold spores are inhaled.

A dehumidifier and a hygrometer, a device used to measure humidity, will help in gauging and eliminating humidity. Numbers should read "well below 50 percent" on the hygrometer to avoid mold growth.

"You might have to clean several times to make sure you got it all," said Fineman.

"The ones coming in after the storm aren't the ones who practice preventive care," said Bassett. "It's important for people to get tested to see if they have allergies to avoid problems."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Caregiving: What's Best for Frail, Elderly?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast this past weekend, many sick, elderly residents were left debating whether to evacuate from their homes or ride out the storm.  Staying put could have put them in direct danger and hitting the road could result in added stress.

So where's the best place for frail patients to go during natural disasters such as Irene?

The American Red Cross says some fare better in shelters, which evaluate their medical needs and have nurses and emergency medical technicians available to address urgent issues.

However, going to a shelter "is always going to be the last thing you want to do," said Jim Judge, executive director of Lake-Sumter EMS Inc., in Mount Dora, Florida.  "If you're in a good, solid home're going to be far better long as you're not in a flood-prone area."

Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, advises families worried about an elderly parent or grandparent to ask local emergency management offices if they have plans to shelter "the elderly, the frail, individuals that might have medical conditions such as oxygen dependence."  Aides or caregivers can accompany them during shelter stays, he said.

Caregivers and families should make sure to ready emergency kits well in advance of disasters.  These can be assembled in a duffle bag, backpack or suitcase -- preferably on wheels, which are easier to maneuver -- and stored under the bed, so they can be rolled out for use at home, or taken to a shelter during an evacuation.

Although disaster preparation focuses on food, water, and medications, "the biggest problem we run into is oxygen for oxygen-dependent patients," Judge said.  Because power failures cut off the flow of life-saving oxygen through electric-powered devices, patients may want to consider portable machines that can be plugged into a car's DC adapter and run off the car battery, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Leaves Blood in Short Supply

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the threat of Hurricane Irene shut down business along the U.S. East Coast, it forced the cancellation of more than 60 scheduled blood drives, resulting in a shortfall of more than 2,100 units of blood, according to the American Red Cross.

The storm has not boosted the demand for blood products, but more than 44,000 donations are needed daily across the United States to help accident victims, cancer patients, and people with blood disorders.

"When a disaster like Hurricane Irene strikes, it doesn't diminish the need, even though some donors may find it more difficult to donate," said Stephanie Millian, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. "That's why we're asking people in unaffected areas to step up."

Despite widespread structural damage and power outages along Irene's multistate path, blood collected and stored before the storm is safe. But the supply of universal donor blood, which is usually stocked at the three-to-five-day inventory level, has dropped below the two-day minimum level.

"O-negative blood is at the lowest level today," said Rob Purvis, vice president of New York Blood Center. "But at this point we need everybody who can donate to donate regardless of what their blood type is."

Six blood collection centers in the Northeast that provide nearly half of the region's blood supply have only enough blood to last two days, according to the America's Blood Centers website. One center has only enough blood for one day.

The blood donation lull is likely to continue as companies struggling to return to normal cancel their scheduled drives, Purvis said.

"The Department of Sanitation had to cancel their drives because of the extra work they had to do," said Purvis. "People are busy doing their jobs. And in terms of priorities, blood donation is really low on the list."

The impending holiday and back to school season will also slow the flow of donated blood, Purvis said.

"We need the help of our communities to replenish the blood supply."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


First Babies Born Amid Hurricane Irene

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WILMINGTON, N.C.) – Some newborns have made quite the entrance into the world, arriving in the middle of a hurricane.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C. reported Saturday that 12 babies were delivered during Hurricane Irene’s fury.

Among the “hurricane babies,” the name “Irene” is being considered as a middle name.

Eight pregnant women were reported to be awaiting delivery, according to the hospital’s public affairs department.

The hospital typically delivers 4,000 newborns a year, but estimates that the recent 12 deliveries in that short time period is about 30 percent higher than usual.

The hospital is currently on lockdown so no visitors are allowed in.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Irene and Pregnant: When the Stork Comes at Hurricane Force

Dynamic Graphics/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ELKINS PARK, Pa.) -- Danielle Tate of Elkins Park, Pa., was originally scheduled to be induced on Sunday, when doctors rescheduled her induction to Monday because of the hurricane. But the baby had its own plans when Tate began experiencing contractions five to six minutes apart Friday morning.

Doctors told her to wait until the contractions were four minutes apart before she came to the hospital.

"I want to get this show on the road," said Tate from the waiting room. "I'm hoping they'll just keep me now, but they're going to do a contraction stress test to see if I stay or go back home."

Tate had to cut the interview short after being called into the doctor's office.

Jessica Blaszczak, of Arlington, Va., is due Sunday. Irene is expected to hit Virginia Saturday.

"It's the lack of control on so many levels that makes everything a little scary," said Blaszczak. "I'm not a control freak by any means, but I'm nine months pregnant in a hurricane. If he came Friday or Monday, that'd be great."

"An epidural is in my birth plan," said Blaszczak, 35. "A hurricane is not."

As Hurricane Irene begins to pummel the East Coast, experts are advising pregnant women close to their due date to take extra caution. Women affected by disasters need to be aware of local health care facilities that can provide prenatal and obstetrics care during a disaster or evacuation, said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"I would recommend that physicians contact their patients, encourage them to develop an evacuation plan, and give them a copy of their medical record that is pertinent to their pregnancy problems," said Dr. Veronican Gillispie, an ObGyn at Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

If a woman does need to evacuate, she should be sure that, along with her medical information in hand, she has an extra supply of any medications or prenatal vitamins she is taking for the duration of the evacuation.

Gillispie was a resident physician at Ochsner Clinic Foundation during Hurricane Katrina, where she watched women "who had given birth in the water from outside, but they were coming in to the hospital because their placenta was still inside."

"They were coming in by boat or trying to flag down helicopters," she said. "It was so chaotic."

After witnessing such devastation, Gillispie authored the 2010 report, "Preparing for Disasters: Perspectives on Women."

Women who experienced trauma during Hurricane Katrina were found to have higher rates of low birth weight infants and preterm deliveries, according to Gillispie's report.

To avoid such dangers, experts recommend women near their due date have an emergency birth kit, which contains several basic items, including sterile lubricant, sterile scissors, a syringe, sanitary pads, peroxide, a neonatal thermometer and battery powered radio with extra batteries.

Dr. Rahit Mishori, director of Global Health Initiatives at Georgetown University School of Medicine, tried to ease some concerns.

"Most women don't deliver on their due dates," he said. "Even if labor starts, it often takes hours to progress, and the acute event may be over, so no need to panic. If you do go into labor, you may want to call EMS rather than drive to the hospital yourself."

As for Blaszczak, she has her own plan if she goes into labor during the hurricane.

"We ... have a kayak in the front yard," said Blaszczak. "Our Plan B is to paddle to the hospital if the ambulance takes too long."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hospitals in Hurricane Irene's Path Enact Safety Plans

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Hurricane Irene heads north, hospitals in its path are getting ready for the worst. ABC News contacted medical facilities up and down the coast in the path of Irene to get their take on this weekend's safety plan.

"All acute inpatient facilities need to have disaster preparedness committees, and we routinely practice for these kinds of scenarios," said Dr. Michael Lucchesi, chief of emergency medicine at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which should begin to feel Irene's effects late Saturday night and Sunday. "Some hospitals are better at disaster preparedness than others, but all have a plan."

"We've closed shutters, put boards over windows [and] we'll be sandbagging the doors later today," said Jarie Ebert, spokeswoman for North Carolina's Outer Banks Hospital, which is less than half a mile from the coast and a mere 14 feet above sea level. Hurricane Irene will make its first U.S. stop near the shores of North Carolina Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

"Anyone considering elective or nonemergency surgery has been already done or rescheduled," said Ebert, noting that 40 to 50 hospital staff members, known as Team A, will arrive Friday night and stay through the duration of the storm.

Emma Inman, a spokeswoman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia, also in Irene's Saturday morning path, noted that the hospital has been testing backup generators and stocking supplies, medications, food, water and fuel to last several days.

"A number of our facilities are contemplating lockdowns," said Inman. "They won't make that decision until tomorrow, though."

One Sentara nursing home located on coastal Currituck, Va., has already been evacuated. Patients have been dispersed to facilities in Hamptons Roads, which is farther inland from the hurricane's path.

Located in one of the most vulnerable areas of New York City, Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital was evacuated Friday morning. Patients were transferred to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which sits more inland.

"We're going to have 25 to 30 percent of additional reserves on hand because of the transfer," said Downstate's Lucchesi. "When you get a surge of patients, you have to make sure you have enough medication, and [that] ventilators are all functioning."

As the fire departments and emergency medical services go into "transport mode" for the next 24 hours, 911 calls in the New York area may not receive as quick of a response as they normally would, Lucchesi said.

For patients on dialysis, SUNY Downstate will extend Friday evening hours "so patients can get dialyzed who would normally come in Saturday," said Lucchesi.

Hospitals cannot be too prepared for disasters, said Lucchesi. After much criticism of the emergency response when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf region in 2005, most medical facilities and government agencies are not taking any chances with safety this time.

"We have to worry about the panic that goes across the population, but a little bit of preparation beforehand, like getting enough water, flashlights, gas in the car, can go a long way," said Lucchesi.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Fears: How to Talk to Kids

JupiterImages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Hurricane Center has urged the 65 million people in Irene's path to prepare for the worst -- a plea that weighs heavily on anxious parents with nervous kids.

"Just as kids look to parents to see how hurt they should be after falling off their bike, they look to parents to see how scared they should be," said Rahil Briggs, a clinical psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College in New York.

Hurricane Irene continues to hurdle toward the East Coast, forcing families to brace for ferocious winds and torrential rain.

"To the extent that parents can convey a relatively calm and in-charge persona to children, the better they're going to do," said Briggs. "That's really the strongest cue, even stronger than the news."

Media coverage has climbed steadily since Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut declared states of emergency -- a decision that allows them to tap into national resources. "We know that the news can lead to serious anxiety in children -- even if they're watching it with a parent," said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and director of Yale University's Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. "A little is fine, but not too much."

Kazdin said parents should answer kids' questions about the hurricane directly and without embellishing.

"That's true with questions about sex, and it's true with questions about hurricanes," he said. "I wouldn't hide anything, but I wouldn't elaborate either."

Maintaining routines and rituals can help comfort children through the commotion. And a little distraction, such as playing a board game, can go a long way in soothing storm-related anxiety.

"Do what feels genuine," said Briggs. "If they're terrified and you're trying to distract them with Monopoly, that might be confusing."

When kids are frightened, physical touch can reassure them that they're safe.

"For some children, there's nowhere they'd rather be than on Dad's lap or in Mom's arms. For others, just being in the same room might be enough," said Briggs. "It's really about knowing your child and providing the comfort they need during times of stress."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Preparedness Tips and Resources

Ron Garan/NASA(WASHINGTON) -- Hurricane Irene is barreling down on the U.S., a monster storm packing winds of more than 100 miles per hour as it batters the Bahamas. In the next few days, the storm could hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or even the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. If you find yourself in Irene's path, experts say not to wait until the last minute. Now is the time to make preparations to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Here are some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

  • Be aware of the latest weather forecast.
  • Make a plan for your family, business and property.
  • Get a disaster preparedness kit stocked with critical supplies, including important documents and medications.
  • Get flood insurance.

Read more of FEMA's advice for securing your family and valued possessions.

The National Weather Service suggests you have a plan for your beloved family pets, and determine safe areas inside your home, as well as escape routes if flooding turns dangerous.

Track the Storm:  Your smartphone could be your most valuable tool during or after a hurricane, with dozens of apps available to provide crucial information.

Here's a list of some of the available apps. Click on the links for download information.

  • Hurricane HD: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. $3.99 – Hurricane HD lets you track storms, with moving radar and satellite imagery from the National Hurricane center. It provides tropical bulletins, forecasts, and advisories for the Atlantic and Pacific Basins. You can watch video updates for storms currently underway or forming, and find data on major storms of the past, such as hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Katrina.
  • The Weather Channel: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Android. Free – The Weather Channel has fully customizable weather maps, animated radar maps, detailed weather conditions and forecasts, severe weather alerts, and a notification bar with the current temperature and severe weather alert indicator. It allows you to get weather forecasts for your location or search by city, ZIP code, street address or landmark. The app also includes interactive maps that are fully customizable and feature the functionality of Google Maps. Customers can decide to display layers such as radar, clouds, UV index, rainfall and more.
  • Global Alert Network: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android BlackBerry. Free – The Global Alert Network delivers hands-free national traffic and weather alerts. See iTunes for Apple devices, or go to BlackBerry for a download. The Global Alert Network is a location-aware network platform that automatically broadcasts audible hands-free alerts to mobile devices. You choose to subscribe to weather or traffic alerts, which are geo-targeted to your location.

Other Resources
Click HERE for a list of useful storm preparedness resources and websites.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio