And so it begins. After a relatively quiet spring, more than two dozen tornadoes and other severe storms walloped primarily the center of the United States over the weekend.
Damage from deadly tornado in the Mayflower, Arkansas, area on Sunday, April 27. Photo by James Bryant via @nlrweatherman on Twitter.
The worst, and deadliest, storms stuck Sunday, April 27, which also was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado outbreak. On that late April day in 2011, twisters hit parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.
Not to start off the week on a down note, but by the time the severe thunderstorm and tornado season wraps, hurricane season will be on the horizon.
That means it's time for my annual get ready for an angry Mother Nature post.
Know your area's dangers: The first step is an obvious and easy one. Know which disasters could occur where you live and find out how warnings are issued.
Nowadays the Internet and social media supplement the official warnings issues via alarm sirens, television and radio, including the special NOAA radio system.
Plan ahead: Create your own personal emergency plan. Make sure your family knows it. Practice before you need it.
Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative that you and your family can call if you are separated during a disaster.
Similarly, pick two emergency meeting places, one near your home in case you are separated during an evacuation and one outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return to your home after a disaster.
But don't make that decision lightly. Use common sense and available information to determine if there is immediate danger.
If you're able to stay in your home, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says you should have some basic supplies on hand in order to make it through at least three days if an emergency occurs.
FEMA recommends multiple emergency supply kits, one full kit at home and smaller portable kits in their workplace, vehicle or other places they spend time.
Get ready to evacuate the area: If you must leave home, either as soon as a warning is issued or with some more advance notice, learn about your community's evacuation routes. Have a portable go-kit that includes cash and credit cards, prescriptions and your important papers, such as insurance document, medical records and yes, tax material; more on this later.
Know how your children's schools or your elderly parents' housing facility is equipped to deal with disaster sheltering and evacuations.
Get information for special situations, such as care for pets during a disaster.
Go! When a disaster is imminent and/or officials say leave, do it!
It is an awful feeling to have to leave your home, fearing it might not make it through the disaster. But you can always rebuild ... as long as you and your family are safe!
Get tax help: Finally, remember that if you do suffer property damage from a natural disaster, you might be able to get some special tax help that could make recovery easier.
Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, could be your best friend. This is the form you file when you sustain any type of loss, either from a natural disaster or such things as a house fire, vandalism or, as the form's name says, theft.
When your losses are from a major disaster -- one that is designated as such by the president after FEMA review of the damage -- tax law allows you to file an amended return for the prior tax year. If you have your prior year return among the material you included in your go kit, this filing will be easier. It also could help you get much needed tax refund money sooner to begin making repairs.
Or if it works better for you, you can file your tax return as usual and claim the disaster damages in the year in which they occurred.
I admit that it is a bit surreal to think about taxes in such terrifying and life-changing times. But when the danger passes, if you suffered any losses, be sure to look into possible tax help from Uncle Sam.
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