Coming to Terms with Severe Weather Awareness | Office of Emergency Management

At OEM (Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management), we like to use acronyms and high-grade words, like mitigation (an action to reduce risk).

Sometimes those acronyms and words can be overwhelming, especially when educating yourself about emergencies.

So we thought we’d break down some of our most commonly used severe weather terms.

Flooding is the most common natural hazard in Philadelphia that can affect you, so we’ve paid close attention to the flood terms you’re likely to hear.

Defining floods and other extreme weather conditions will give you a better idea of ​​how to protect yourself, your property and your loved ones.

Centennial flood: Term describing a flood with a recurrence interval of 100 years. Misinterpretation of this terminology often leads to confusion about floods recurrence intervals, the average number of years between floods of a certain size is the recurrence interval or return period. The actual number of years between floods of a given size varies widely due to natural climate change. Instead of the term “100-year flood”, a hydrologist (scientists who study water) would rather describe this extreme hydrological event as a flood with a recurrence interval of 100 years.

Coastal flooding: When a hurricane, tropical storm, or heavy rain in our north creates a surge in water and a surge along the Delaware River.

Emergency Alerts: When hazardous weather is approaching or hazardous conditions are occurring, local authorities, such as the OEM or the National Weather Service, may issue informational alerts that arrive on your phone, television, or radio.

  • Emergency Alert System: SAE is the national public alerting system used by state and local authorities to provide important emergency information, such as weather and AMBER alerts. EAS participants – radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers – issue local alerts on a voluntary basis, but they are required to provide the President with the ability to address the public during a national emergency.
  • Wireless Emergency Alert: the AEM system provides warnings and critical information to the public on their wireless devices. Authorized public safety officials send alerts through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alerting and Warning System (IPAWS) to wireless service providers, who then relay alerts from cell towers to mobile devices in the affected area . Alerts appear as text messages on mobile devices.
  • Philadelphia Loan: The City of Philadelphia Mass Notification System. Registrants get important information directly from the OEM. You can receive free text alerts by texting READYPHILA to 888777 or Personalize your text/email alerts for information (like river flood levels) and places important to you.

Flash Flood: Flooding that begins within 6 hours, and often within 3 hours of heavy rain. Urban areas, such as Philadelphia, are more prone to flash flooding due to less vegetation and increased runoff that can overwhelm sewer systems. It doesn’t have to be raining in our area for a flash flood warning to be issued.

Flood Alerts: The National Weather Service will issue information for awareness or warning purposes when flooding is a threat.

  • Flood monitoring: Flooding is possible, be prepared.
  • Flood advisory: The flood is imminent, be careful.
  • Flood warning: Floods are happening, take action.

Floodplain: Floodplain is the relatively flat plain that borders a river, usually dry but prone to flooding. Floodplain soils are actually old flood deposits.

Flood insurance: Flood insurance is not covered by your landlord’s policy or renters insurance and usually takes time to kick in when added. You need separate flood insurance that covers damage to your property caused by flooding. Starts with talk to your insurance agent to see what is covered in your policy.

Floodable: Know the flood risks in your area or where you are traveling. Do not park your vehicle in a low area, such as an underpass. The National Weather Service (NWS) Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service issues river flood guidance for rainfall events based on river flood gauge readings.

Flood risk: A property’s flood factor is not just a score ranging from 1 to 10, it is a comprehensive risk assessment, including a property’s thirty-year risk of flooding due to high intensity precipitation events, overflowing rivers and streams, high tides and storm surges. FEMA has updated the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to provide fairer flood insurance pricing that better reflects a property’s actual flood risk. This program is called Risk Assessment 2.0!

Heat-related health emergency: Very hot weather can make people sick, even healthy adults. The elderly, pregnant women, infants and young children, and people with medical conditions are at greater risk. Pets may also be at risk. Hot weather can also cause service interruptions or bad weather. In very hot weather, the City may declare a heat-related health emergency, where a response and special actions follow to help residents.

Hurricane: A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph or more. This differs from a tropical storm which has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39 to 73 mph. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

Power outage: Severe storms with high winds can cause extended outages with downed power lines. Our regional electricity supplier PECO has information for before, during and after the storm, including how to report and track outages.

River flooding: When water levels rise in rivers, streams and streams and exceed their banks. You can check current and forecast water levels on the National Weather Service’s website.

Thunderstorms: Intense storms which can bring heavy rain, high winds, hail, tornadoes and lightning. Lightning is one of the leading causes of injury and death due to weather hazards.

Tornadoes: Violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm down to the ground.

Turn around, don’t drown: A phrase to remind you to NEVER drive on flooded roads. As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Twelve inches can carry a car.

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Information for residents and homeowners to know flood risks and prepare for flooding.