Recent Storm Damage Posts

What is lightning?

8/2/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage What is lightning? Lightning contarsted with the night sky

Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves. Most lightning occurs within the clouds.

"Sheet lightning" describes a distant bolt that lights up an entire cloud base. Other visible bolts may appear as bead, ribbon, or rocket lightning. During a storm, colliding particles of rain, ice, or snow inside storm clouds increase the imbalance between storm clouds and the ground, and often negatively charge the lower reaches of storm clouds. Objects on the ground, like steeples, trees, and the Earth itself, become positively charged—creating an imbalance that nature seeks to remedy by passing current between the two charges.

Lightning is extremely hot—a flash can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface. This heat causes surrounding air to rapidly expand and vibrate, which creates the pealing thunder we hear a short time after seeing a lightning flash.

Types of Lightning

Cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are a common phenomenon—about 100 strike Earth’s surface every single second—yet their power is extraordinary. Each bolt can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.

A typical cloud-to-ground lightning bolt begins when a step-like series of negative charges, called a stepped leader, races downward from the bottom of a storm cloud toward the Earth along a channel at about 200,000 mph (300,000 kph). Each of these segments is about 150 feet (46 meters) long.

When the lowermost step comes within 150 feet (46 meters) of a positively charged object, it is met by a climbing surge of positive electricity, called a streamer, which can rise up through a building, a tree, or even a person.

When the two connect, electrical current flows as negative charges fly down the channel towards earth and a visible flash of lightning streaks upward at some 200,000,000 mph (300,000,000 kph), transferring electricity as lightning in the process.

Some types of lightning, including the most common types, never leave the clouds but travel between differently charged areas within or between clouds. Other rare forms can be sparked by extreme forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and snowstorms. Ball lightning, a small, charged sphere that floats, glows, and bounces along oblivious to the laws of gravity or physics, still puzzles scientists.

About one to 20 cloud-to-ground lightning bolts is "positive lightning," a type that originates in the positively charged tops of storm clouds. These strikes reverse the charge flow of typical lightning bolts and are far stronger and more destructive. Positive lightning can stretch across the sky and strike "out of the blue" more than 10 miles from the storm cloud where it was born.

 If you have had damage from a lightning strike, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378

Should I Waterproof My Basement?

8/2/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Should I Waterproof My Basement? Sealed basement wall

If your basement smells wet or musty, one might be curious about why this may be happening and what the root of it is. Many companies advertise about waterproofing basements walls. Is it really possible to dry out a basement simply by sealing the walls?

Yes, it is possible to make sure you basement stay dry and not musty. SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617-864-7378) can help.  We are here to make sure that your basement stays dry especially after a tragedy.  We are professionals that will get your space back to looking “like it never happened”. 

There are four types of Interior Waterproofing:

1.Concrete waterproofing coatings:

2.Silicate based concrete sealers,

3.Waterproof paint

4.Plastic sheets and panels

These are all solutions that can help prevent water from getting into your basement and have the ability to have a finished basement and add value to your house. If you have water damage let SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617-864-7378) help.

Tuesday's storm caused widespread flooding

7/18/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Tuesday's storm caused widespread flooding The storm flooded this Cambridge home

The heat and humidity Tuesday will give way to potentially severe thunderstorms in the afternoon in Massachusetts, forecasters say.

 “A line of strong thunderstorms is expected to develop in northwest Massachusetts around noon and then progress slowly southeastward across most of southern New England this afternoon and evening,” the National Weather Service wrote. “Any storms will be capable of producing 1 to 2 inches of rain in less than an hour.”

 The National Weather Service said localized flash flooding and damaging winds are concerns with the sweeping storms.

 The Flash Flood Watch has been expanded to include the Boston and Providence corridor. With widespread showers and thunderstorms today, 1"-2" of rain is expected in a short period of time. Some places could see 2"-4" with rainfall rates around 2"/hr. This could lead to localized flash flooding, especially in urban areas.

 The strongest storms are forecast in western and northern Massachusetts, and the storms are expected to weaken as they approach southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

 If your home or business was affected by yesterday’s storm, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you.

The dangers of a lightning strike

7/17/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage The dangers of a lightning strike Spectacular picture of lightning lighting up the sky

Lightning is not only spectacular, it’s dangerous. About 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning each year. Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of lasting symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness, weakness, numbness, and other life-altering ailments. Strikes can cause cardiac arrest and severe burns, but 9 of every 10 people survive. The average American has about a 1 in 5,000 chance of being struck by lightning during a lifetime.

Lightning's extreme heat will vaporize the water inside a tree, creating steam that may blow the tree apart. Cars are havens from lightning—but not for the reason that most believe. Tires conduct current, as do metal frames that carry a charge harmlessly to the ground.

Many houses are grounded by rods and other protection that conduct a lightning bolts electricity harmlessly to the ground. Homes may also be inadvertently grounded by plumbing, gutters, or other materials. Grounded buildings offer protection, but occupants who touch running water or use a landline phone may be shocked by conducted electricity.

If your home or business is struck by lightning, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378

It's Hurricane Season

7/16/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage It's Hurricane Season Satellite photo of a hurricane

As the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins, scientists are worried that U.S. coastal communities could face more super storms with winds, storm surges and rainfall so intense that current warning categories don't fully capture the threat.

This year's forecast is about average and much more subdued than last summer's hyperactive season turned out to be, partly due to cooler ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, as well as a nascent El Niño pattern. But that doesn't mean an individual storm won't blow up to exceptional strength, as Andrew did before striking Florida in 1992, an otherwise relatively quiet year.

 Heat trapped by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is raising the chances of that happening, said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. 

A new review of global data on hurricanes shows that since 1980, the number of storms with winds stronger than 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph, or a strong Category 3) have doubled, and those with winds stronger than 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph) have tripled.

If a storm hits your area, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you with the cleanup.

Causes of Sewage backups in basements

7/16/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Causes of Sewage backups in basements Diagram of a sewage system

Heavy rains that occurred in the Cambridge/Belmont area caused not only flooding but also many sewage backups. The town & cities sewage system gets overwhelmed causing the sewage to flow into basements through toilets and sinks. When a storm drain suffers a partial or complete blockage, rain water gets trapped in the pipes and must go somewhere. Unfortunately, the only exit point is the pipe servicing your home that connects to the sewer line. With nowhere left to go it goes up through your pipe, pushing whatever refuse and filth it’s carrying into your basement and other areas of your home. Contact your local plumber to install a backwater valve to prevent this from happening to you! If your basement gets flooded or has sewage issues, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you. Did you know that SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont also helps Commercial and Industrial customers?

Recent Storm in Cambridge, MA

7/2/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Recent Storm in Cambridge, MA Downed tree as a result of the recent storm

Yesterday’s microburst that occurred in the city of Cambridge resulted in about 50 limbs or branches down. Forestry crews are responding. There are also several wires down and loss of power in certain locations. The City Electrician, Eversource and SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont are responding. The above picture shows the damage that one of the downed trees caused. SERVPRO Of Cambridge/Belmont responded to a frantic call from the homeowner informing us that a tree came right through the kitchen ceiling. The SERVPRO technicians were at the Cambridge home in less than an hour. They cleaned up the debris and installed drying equipment.

To report a fallen tree or limb, call 617-349-3300.

To report a down wired, call 911 or 617-349-3300

To report loss of power, please call Eversourse at 1-800-592-2000

If you have had roof or water damage due to the Microburst please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378

A microburst is a small downdraft that moves in a way opposite to a tornado. Microbursts are found in strong thunderstorms. There are two types of microbursts within a thunderstorm: wet microbursts and dry microbursts. They go through three stages in their cycle, the downburst, outburst, and cushion stages. A microburst often has high winds that can knock over fully grown trees. They usually last from a couple of seconds to several minutes.

Early-season storms one indicator of active Atlantic hurricane season ahead

8/15/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Early-season storms one indicator of active Atlantic hurricane season ahead Satellite picture of a hurricane in the Atlantic

Today NOAA issued the scheduled update for its 2017 hurricane season outlook. Forecasters are now predicting a higher likelihood of an above-normal season, and they increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. The season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010.

Forecasters now say there is a 60-percent chance of an above-normal season (compared to the May prediction of 45 percent chance), with 14-19 named storms (increased from the May predicted range of 11-17) and 2-5 major hurricanes (increased from the May predicted range of 2-4). A prediction for 5-9 hurricanes remains unchanged from the initial May outlook.  

“We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.”

Bell noted other factors that point to an above-normal season include warmer waters across the tropical Atlantic than models previously predicted and higher predicted activity from available models.

In just the first nine weeks of this season there have been six named storms, which is half the number of storms during an average six-month season and double the number of storms that would typically form by early August. An average Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1-November 30, produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“Today’s updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”

The updated outlook is based on the current and evolving atmospheric and oceanic conditions, the most recent model predictions, and pre-and early-season storm activity. The numbers announced today include the season activity to-date. The Atlantic basin has seen six named storms (Arlene in April; Bret and Cindy in June; Don and Emily in July; and Franklin in August). Two of these storms, Cindy and Emily, struck the United States. Cindy made landfall on June 22 at the Louisiana-Texas border and caused heavy rain, inland flooding and multiple tornado outbreaks. Emily made landfall on July 31 in Anna Maria Island, Florida. Franklin is predicted to make landfall in Mexico overnight as a hurricane.

Today’s update also decreases the chance of a near-normal season from 35 percent to 30 percent, and a below-normal season from 20 percent to only 10 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

As we move into the peak of hurricane season, when hurricanes are most frequent and at their strongest, NOAA urges coastal residents to make sure they have their hurricane preparedness plans in place and to monitor the latest forecasts.

If you are affected by a hurricane, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378

Lightning Science: Five Ways Lightning Strikes People

8/9/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Lightning Science: Five Ways Lightning Strikes People Lightning filling up the sky

Direct Strike

A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. Most often, direct strikes occur to victims who are in open areas. Direct strikes are not as common as the other ways people are struck by lightning, but they are potentially the most deadly. In most direct strikes, a portion of the current moves along and just over the skin surface (called flashover) and a portion of the current moves through the body--usually through the cardiovascular and/or nervous systems. The heat produced when lightning moves over the skin can produce burns, but the current moving through the body is of greatest concern. While the ability to survive any lightning strike is related to immediate medical attention, the amount of current moving through the body is also a factor.

Side Flash

A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from taller object to the victim. In essence, the person acts as a “short circuit” for some of energy in the lightning discharge. Side flashes generally occur when the victim is within a foot or two of the object that is struck. Most often, side flash victims have taken shelter under a tree to avoid rain or hail.

Ground Current

When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike along the ground surface. This is known as the ground current. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is potentially a victim of ground current. In addition, ground current can travels in garage floors with conductive materials. Because the ground current affects a much larger area than the other causes of lightning casualties, the ground current causes the most lightning deaths and injuries. Ground current also kills many farm animals. Typically, the lightning enters the body at the contact point closest to the lightning strike, travels through the cardiovascular and/or nervous systems, and exits the body at the contact point farthest from the lightning. The greater the distance between contact points, the greater the potential for death or serious injury. Because large farm animals have a relatively large body-span, ground current from a nearby lightning strike is often fatal to livestock.

Conduction

Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Metal does not attract lightning, but it provides a path for the lightning to follow. Most indoor lightning casualties and some outdoor casualties are due to conduction. Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.

Streamers

While not as common as the other types of lightning injuries, people caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning. Streamers develop as the downward-moving leader approaches the ground. Typically, only one of the streamers makes contact with the leader as it approaches the ground and provides the path for the bright return stroke; however, when the main channel discharges, so do all the other streamers in the area. If a person is part of one of these streamers, they could be killed or injured during the streamer discharge even though the lightning channel was not completed between the cloud and the upward streamer.

 If you are a homeowner, property or facilities manager and you are affected by lightning please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617)864-7378 to assist you

NOAA METEOROLOGIST BOB CASE, THE MAN WHO NAMED THE PERFECT STORM

8/3/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage NOAA METEOROLOGIST BOB CASE, THE MAN WHO NAMED THE PERFECT STORM Radar picture of the storm.

June 16, 2000 — The conditions were "perfect" for a monstrous storm, a meteorological time bomb that would explode in the northern Atlantic Ocean creating waves ten stories high and imperiling the New England fleet. This was the assessment of Bob Case, a NOAA National Weather Service meteorologist at the Boston, Mass. forecast office, who, with his weather service colleagues in late October 1991, began warning the public of a storm that would take on epic proportions.

"It was an unprecedented set of circumstances," the now-retired weatherman said. "A strong disturbance associated with a cold front moved along the U.S.-Canadian border on October 27 and passed through New England pretty much without incident. At the same time, a huge high pressure system was forecast to build over southeast Canada. When a low pressure system along the front moved into the Maritimes southeast of Nova Scotia, it began to intensify due to the cold dry air introduced from the north," according to Case.

"These circumstances alone, could have created a strong storm," Case said. "But then, like throwing gasoline on a fire, a dying hurricane Grace delivered immeasurable tropical energy to create the perfect storm."

With all of the contributing factors coming together at just the right time, in less than 24 hours, the storm exploded to epic proportions and then headed toward the coast," the meteorologist said, adding that if any of the components were out of sync, the epic storm would not have happened."

While NOAA's National Weather Service was warning of a storm of huge proportions, New England was enjoying unusually nice weather for late October—a beautiful late autumn day with plenty of sunshine and a northeast breeze, Case explained. "There was a certain amount of skepticism to our warnings of what turned out to be one of the North Atlantic's most powerful storms."

One of Case's colleagues at the Boston office was Walt Drag, a forecaster who shared his passion for meteorology. "Walt had a good handle on it early and the office put out warnings of a big storm," Case said. "This is an area well known for breeding tremendous storms and we could see it coming together on the satellite images and computer model information from the national center in Washington."

"You knew something bad was going to happen," said Ross Dickman another NWS meteorologist who worked the storm. "I remember seeing waves crashing over the seawall at Winthrop (Mass.) sending spray a hundred feet into the air. It was incredible."

An interesting aspect of the huge system was its retrograde motion not away from the New England Coast, but toward it. "It was difficult for us to convey the magnitude of the event to the public," Case said. "Not too many people could fathom–or believe–100-foot waves and hurricane force winds, 70-80 miles-per-hour plus, in a storm that was heading from east to west. "You were looking at a set of meteorological circumstances that come together maybe every 50-100 years."

Flooded basements during heavy rain storms

7/24/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Flooded basements during heavy rain storms Diagram of Public sewer system

The heavy rains that occurred in the Cambridge/Belmont area caused not only flooding but also many sewage back ups. The town & cities sewage system gets overwhelmed causing the sewage to flow into basements through toilets and sinks. When a storm drain suffers a partial or complete blockage, rain water gets trapped in the pipes and must go somewhere. Unfortunately, the only exit point is the pipe servicing your home that connects to the sewer line. With nowhere left to go it goes up through your pipe, pushing whatever refuse and filth it’s carrying into your basement and other areas of your home. Contact your local plumber to install a backwater valve to prevent this from happening to you! If your basement gets flooded or has sewage issues, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you. Did you know that SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont also helps Commercial and Industrial customers?

Wednesday night's storm causes flooding in Cambridge, MA

7/14/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Wednesday night's  storm causes flooding in Cambridge, MA Storm caused flooding

Wednesday night’s storm caused street flooding, flooded basements and sewage to be backed up into basements. Local restoration companies like SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont were busy helping homeowners and businesses with storm related issues. Storm related events that cause flooding or sewage back up problems are not typically covered by insurance. Specialty policies or endorsements must be in place prior to a potential claim.

Precautions to prevent future flooding or damage

Certain preventive measures can be taken to prevent a City sewer from backing up into your basement during or after a heavy rain. Some are low cost, while others require corrective plumbing work.

  • Make sure sewer trap plugs are fit tightly on the house trap. Replace old ill-fitting sewer trap plugs with fit-all plugs.
  • If the house sewer line is solely for sanitary use (not for any rain water flow) a back-water check valve can be installed in front (the street side) of the house trap.
  • If the house sewer in question is also for storm water (rain water) flow and there are plumbing fixtures in the basement (such as a toilet, shower, or a sink) backwater check valves can be installed for individual plumbing fixtures.

What is a backwater check valve?

A backwater check valve is a self-operating valve that only allows for water flow in one direction. If properly maintained it will prevent water from flowing in the opposite direction thereby preventing a sewer backup from a public sewer system.

A backwater check valve should be cleaned every 6 months to a year, a task easily performed by a non-professional by removing a few screws. No special tools or skills are required for maintenance on a backwater check valve.

This relatively low-cost installation can prevent heavy rain from causing damage to your house ever again. If your basement gets flooded or has sewage back up, please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378 to assist you.

Microburst downs trees in Cambridge, MA

6/14/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Microburst downs trees in Cambridge, MA Tree pierces kitchen ceiling

Yesterday’s microburst that occurred in the city of Cambridge resulted in about 50 limbs or branches down. Forestry crews are responding. There are also several wires down and loss of power in certain locations. The City Electrician, Eversource and SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont are responding. The above picture shows the damage that one of the downed trees caused. SERVPRO Of Cambridge/Belmont responded to a frantic call from the homeowner informing us that a tree came right through the kitchen ceiling. The SERVPRO technicians were at the Cambridge home in less than an hour. They cleaned up the debris and installed drying equipment.

To report a fallen tree or limb, call 617-349-3300.

To report a down wired, call 911 or 617-349-3300

To report loss of power, please call Eversourse at 1-800-592-2000

If you have had roof or water damage due to the Microburst please call SERVPRO of Cambridge/Belmont (617) 864-7378

A microburst is a small downdraft that moves in a way opposite to a tornado. Microbursts are found in strong thunderstorms. There are two types of microbursts within a thunderstorm: wet microbursts and dry microbursts. They go through three stages in their cycle, the downburst, outburst, and cushion stages. A microburst often has high winds that can knock over fully grown trees. They usually last from a couple of seconds to several minutes.