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It happened again. Severe thunderstorms swept across the Eastern United States Monday. This time at least two people were killed and more than 1.1 million homes and businesses lost electrical power.

It will probably take several days before the massive damages are assessed. Including those caused by flooding that left some motorists stranded for hours. 

We shouldn’t be surprised. This summer has provided a relentless torrent of excessive heat, violent storms, and blackouts. 

But when you’re caught in the middle of it – with thunder booming, rain falling in sheets, hail pounding roofs and vehicles, hurricane-force wind gusts downing trees and power lines – it can be pretty scary. Especially when you’re plunged into darkness.     

Nine States Affected by Storms

This latest extreme weather event featuring tornadoes and tornado warnings affected nine states. It stretched all the way from Tennessee, across Mid-Atlantic states, and north to Pennsylvania and New York.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong did not mince words while describing the storms in real time. “This does look to be one of the most impactful severe weather events across the Mid-Atlantic that we have had in some time,” he said.

Washington, D.C. was among many metropolitan areas hard hit by storms that delayed nearly 8,000 flights and canceled more than 2,600 others. Driving was hazardous on many roads. 

More than 80 million people in the Eastern time zone had been declared at risk for dangerous winds, flash flooding, and tornadoes. The two confirmed deaths were a 15-year-old South Carolina boy hit by a falling tree and a 28-year-old Alabama man struck by lightning. 

High Winds, Hail, and Flooding 

In Westminster, Maryland, winds knocked down over 30 utility poles. That caused live wires to fall on more than 30 vehicles, trapping adults and children. 

In Buffalo, New York, a wind gust of 140 miles per hour ripped roofs off homes, blew barn walls down, and felled snow ski lifts. Between Bowling Green and Port Royal, Virginia, hail reaching the size of baseballs was recovered.

Roads were under water in many cities, including Morgantown and Parkersburg, West Virginia. Tornadoes were reported in several states including Tennessee and New York. 

The only thing that kept the death toll down to two was the quick and tireless work of law enforcement, first responders, and utility crews.

Wes Moore is the governor of Maryland. He said, “Last night, lives were saved. There were people who were stuck and stranded in cars who were able to sleep in their own beds last night. And that’s because of the work of everybody who moved and our first responders who made it so.”

FEMA Running Out of Disaster Relief Funds 

This most recent outbreak of storms and the damage they caused was hardly an isolated incident. The U.S. has experienced more than a dozen major weather and climate events in 2023.

They have killed over 100 people, with damages costing the federal government more than $1 billion. According to FEMA, it has nearly depleted its disaster relief funds for the year. This is causing panic among the agency and local governments.

That comes with more than four months left in the year and the traditional peak of hurricane season about to occur. It’s been a quiet hurricane season so far, but above-average temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are causing hurricane forecasters to raise their hurricane estimates.

Deanne Criswell is the FEMA administrator. She said, “We can no longer speak of a ‘disaster season’ – we now face intensified natural disasters throughout the year, often in places that are not used to experiencing them.” 

The increase in the number of extreme weather events – and in their intensity – is just one more reminder of how we all need to be prepared for the inevitable power outages coming our way.

The only way to become truly self-reliant is to acquire the tools necessary to ensure the safety of yourself and your family.

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