Preparing for Disaster in the Midwest: The Land of Extremes

Omaha Flooding road washout

2019 has proven to be an extreme year weather-wise here in the Midwest--from extreme cold in January, the Bomb Cyclone in March, and tornadoes in April to extensive rain and subsequent flooding in May and June. The Midwest states are no strangers to disaster. As we look back on this young year, the Midwest Climate Hub would like to take a moment and focus on disaster preparedness resources and what that means to producers in a changing climate.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment has reported that “communities in the Midwest are becoming more vulnerable to climate change impacts such as flooding, drought, and increases in urban heat islands.” (Find out more about the Climate Science as it relates to changes in storm frequency/intensity, droughts, floods, wildfire, and climate models/scenarios and projections.) Understanding weather, a changing climate and the possible disasters that are bound to happen in this region, is imperative to supporting sustainable crop production and producers here in the Midwest. The Midwest Climate Hub works to support use of current and projected outlooks for producers, advisers and industry in the region.

NWS LogoWe work closely with NOAA NWS to collect and supply information usable to agricultural producers during disasters to help producers stay safe and recover. Past recent examples of this partnership include the January Extreme Cold snap (January 2019), Post-Bomb Cyclone Recovery list of resources (March 2019), and Special weather event webinar (flooding and precipitation agriculture impacts, June 2019). In addition to these ‘as-needed’ resources, we help maintain regular sharing of information via a monthly webinar that is open to the public. More information on this webinar, and how to register can be found here.

Preparing for a Disaster

When preparing for a disaster, follow these three simple steps: build a kit, make a plan, and be aware. Know what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where to go if you need to evacuate here. As resources, needs and information varies depending on where you live within the region, please research your state’s ‘ready.gov’ web page below. (Note: These are not the only resources within your state. Take time to find the best information available for you where you live for resources before, during and after a disaster.) 

Tornado damage, Shelby OH, April 2019 (credit: NWS Cleveland).
Tornado damage, Shelby OH, April 2019.

In addition to these, the National Weather Service has an abundance of Weather Safety Information & Resources on their website.

During a Disaster

Safety First! Follow all instructions of local, state and regional officials. If you have not been ordered to evacuate, stay in a safe area or shelter. Listen for important updates and reminders and do not drive or leave the safe area until the danger has passed.

Post-Disaster

In addition to the state resources linked above, USDA provides rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses with assistance should they be impacted by severe weather or natural disasters. Here are some (of the many) resources available through USDA.

Sun Dogs, Hawley MN, Feb 2019, (Credit MNDNR)
Sundogs caused by sunlight being refracted through ice crystals, Hawley MN, Feb 2019. 

Disaster Resource Center

USDA FSA Disaster Assistance Programs

USDA APHIS Protecting Livestock During a Disaster

As always, the USDA Climate Hubs work to provide region-specific information, alongside USDA agencies and partners, to producers and natural resource managers that enable robust and healthy ecosystems before, during and after disasters. Contact your regional Climate Hub to and sign-up for updates in your region.