I am home! I arrived yesterday evening, with the weather gods giving my airline flights just enough time to go from Kansas City to Dallas and on to Austin without excessive turbulence.
When I left KC, the Missouri River was already over its banks in some areas. During the Dallas layover, all of us at the gate area were glued to the local news reports of storm cells with potential tornadoes moving eastward toward DFW.
The spring storm season is nothing new. But this year is a decidedly difficult one. And weather-related disasters started early this year; remember Florida in February and Alabama in early March? It was last week's twisters in the Plains states, however, that put us all on notice.
Already, 2007 is on track to be one of the busiest and deadliest tornado years in a decade. "Even if the year stopped right now, it would be the deadliest year we’ve had since 1999," according to Greg Forbes, severe-weather expert for The Weather Channel.
So far this year, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says that we've seen around 600 tornado reports. The annual average of tornadoes for the past 10 years is 1,272.
All we can do is hope that most of them are small, minimal or no-damage storms. And, of course, be prepared.
Before the storm: Here are some things to do right now so you're ready for any foul weather and its consequences.
- Make a record of your personal property.
- Keep copies your important personal and financial papers in a safe place away from your home. One idea: send them to a trusted relative in another town.
- Take photos. Put them with important papers. Store negatives in a safe place away from the house or make copies and do the same. Store digital copies at an online site that you can access electronically from anywhere.
- Look around and assess the risks to your home. For example, trim tall trees near your house to prevent any falling during a storm from causing damage.
- If tornadoes are a threat, identify the safest room in your home for shelter or consider building a safe room in your house.
Finally, review your insurance coverage now so you'll know where you might have deficiencies. Check with your agent about how to fill in gaps.
Additional assistance links: After the storm, you might be eligible for federal and/or tax relief. It's not help anyone really wants, but if you can get it, take it. Here are some places to go for more information:
- Relief for May 2007 Kansas storm, tornado victims
- Relief for April 2007 Texas storm, flooding victims
- Relief for April 2007 Northeast storm, flooding victims
- Relief for March 2007 New Mexico storm, tornado victims
- FEMA list of federal disaster declarations
- State news links, local news releases announcing tax relief for specific disasters
- Tax Topic 515 gives an overview of tax relief for presidentially-declared disaster areas
- IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters and Thefts, provides details on how to figure and claim a disaster loss. PDF file to download or read online.
- Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook, tax claim details, information and worksheets. Read it online or download the PDF file.
Hope this material helps. More importantly, I hope you never have need for it. Stay safe.