Monday, June 27, 2016

Salton Sea: A Former Paradise Abandoned

Abandoned buildings at Salton Sea
The Salton Sea is a semi-man-made lake in California, which sits directly on the San Andreas fault. It is home to numerous bird and fish species, some of which are endangered. Because it is an important stop along the Pacific Flyway, it is critical that it is safe for the birds that flock there.

Unfortunately, there have been several major die-offs for both the birds and the fish of the Salton Sea. And there is much controversy surrounding the cause of these die-offs.

The Salton Sea lies in a natural basin called the Salton Basin or the Salton Trough. This basin is very close to the Colorado River and it is easy for water in the area to drain into the basin because it is so far below sea level. The Salton Basin has been filled with water off and on as far back as 700 A.D. It was most recently filled in 1905.

In 1905 an irrigation canal headworks on the Colorado River broke and the river began pouring into the Salton Basin. Unfortunately, the town of Salton and some Native American land were submerged by the in-flowing water. Luckily, the area was not highly developed and all escaped what could have been a major disaster. Engineers were unable to fix the break immediately and so the Colorado River continued to pour into the Salton Basin for more than a year. Thus, the Salton Sea, as we know it today, was born. It is currently around 45 miles long and 20 miles wide.

The area of the Salton Sea has natural salt deposits and the Colorado River is relatively salty itself. Therefore, when the river poured into the basin and dissolved some of the natural salt, the Salton Basin became a salt lake. In fact, it is currently 25% saltier than ocean water because some of the water that flows in today is also salty. Because it is roughly 227 feet below sea level, no water flows out of the Salton Sea, only in. The lake is able to maintain its water level because of evaporation, but the salt doesn’t evaporate. So, what we are left with is a lake that constantly collects more and more salt, but does not dispose of it.

The Salton Sea is fed by the New River, the White River, the Alamo River and numerous agricultural drain offs and creeks. Therefore, not only water comes into the Salton Sea; fish do as well. There are many species of fish in the Salton Sea and it has become a very popular fishing spot for both humans and birds. In little more than one hundred years, the Salton Sea has developed an ecosystem that is critical to the survival of several endangered species. The problem is that it may not be a safe place for these animals.

A number of large-scale die-offs of fish and birds have occurred on the Salton Sea over the years. Some people believe that contaminants are coming into the Salton Sea from the drain offs and rivers and that they are causing the die-offs. Others believe that it is the excess of naturally occurring salt, nutrients and Selenium. One thing is agreed upon by both groups–something is killing these animals and something has to be done about it. Various organizations are looking into the problem and researching possible solutions.

The Salton Sea is a wonderful part of the California landscape and it is rather unique. It would be a horrible thing to lose all of the animals that grace the lake and only be left with what would essentially be a giant bowl of salt water and animal bones. Fortunately, we live in a time where it may be possible to stop the Salton Sea from “dying,” though we haven’t been able to stop things such as this before. However, with some elbow grease and awareness, a biological travesty can be avoided. Thankfully, we have that choice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hurricane Safety Tips

ISS Photo of Cyclone Katarina
An average of five or six hurricanes occur every year in the Atlantic and just one of these storms can leave a path of destruction through several states. States on the Atlantic coast are the most susceptible to hurricane damage. Therefore, if you live on the Atlantic coast, even in the northern states, it is important to be prepared for hurricanes.

Keep a First-Aid Kit 

Whether you plan to stay at home or to evacuate, you should keep a first-aid kit with you. (Pack it in the trunk of your car ahead of time, if you know you plan to leave in the event of a hurricane.) Even the smallest wounds should be cared for in an emergency to prevent infection. The last thing you want is a small scrape turning into a medical emergency when medical aid may not be easy to obtain.

The bare essentials for a first aid kit:
  • Bandages of all sizes
  • Medical tape
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Antiseptic
  • Gauze
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ace bandage
  • Over the counter pain reliever/fever reducer 


Keep a Hurricane Kit

A hurricane safety kit should include items that will keep you warm, protected from the sun, fed, watered and clothed for a minimum of three days. If you are evacuating in the event of a hurricane, you may want to keep this kit packed up and ready to be placed in your car at a moment's notice. If you plan to stay home, keep the kit in waterproof containers in your home. You never know if you will be forced out of your home by damage during a hurricane. You want to have those essentials ready and dry.

A hurricane kit should include, at minimum:

  • A change of socks and underwear for each person
  • Sunblock
  • Flashlights, small battery-operated radio and extra batteries (packed in watertight plastic)
  • A necklace whistle (for drawing the attention of rescue workers)
  • At least one blanket per person (Pillows are a luxury. Only pack them if you have the room or you can carry them.)
  • One towel per person packed in watertight plastic
  • Waterproof strike anywhere matches
  • Baby wipes (helps keep you sanitary when shower facilities are scarce)
  • Enough water for at least three days (one gallon per day, per person)

Meal replacement bars, trail mix, peanut butter and crackers, canned meat, beef jerky, canned vegetables, canned fruit and anything else that keeps for long without refrigeration. Be sure to bring plastic eating utensils, plates and cups.

Be Ready When a Hurricane Warning is Issued

You want to have your kits ready long before a warning is issued. This way, you miss the rush to the grocery stores. In addition, you want to make sure your gas tank is full in case you have to leave. If you have a shelter, hotel or other safe place out of the area in mind, leave as soon as possible so you beat the evacuation traffic. You cannot do this if you are not prepared before the warning. Make sure to gather all of the family's essential medications when a hurricane is expected as well. You can bring them with you to the shelter.

If You're Staying Home, Make Sure Your Home is Safe

It is possible to be injured inside your home during a hurricane, even if your home is sturdy. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are as safe as possible inside your house during a hurricane, if you decide to stay. Of course, in the event of a strong hurricane, your best choice is to evacuate.

Board up your windows and doors. This is to prevent breaking windows and doors from flying through your house and hurting you. Make sure all of the things you need and you are in areas of the house that are as far from trees as possible. Shut off the gas lines in your house in case something breaks.

It is important to remember that no matter how much you prepare, a strong enough hurricane can render your preparation useless. Therefore, your safest option is to evacuate while evacuation is still possible. Even if you do evacuate, do not forget your kit.