Environment & Weather
USDA Announces New Grants to Help Communities Meet Water Challenges in Coming Years PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 14:44
$6 Million in Fiscal Year 2014, Up to $30 Million Over Next Five Years Available

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will make $6 million in grants available this year, and up to $30 million total over the next five years as part of a new initiative to provide solutions to agricultural water challenges. The grants will be used to develop management practices, technologies and tools for farmers, ranchers, forest owners and citizens to improve water resource quantity and quality.

"Cutting edge research holds the key to tackling the complex challenges posed by prolonged drought and ensuring the future food security of our nation," said Secretary Vilsack. "These grants will help arm America's farmers and ranchers with the tools and strategies they need to adapt and succeed, and build on ongoing, cross-governmental efforts to provide relief to those impacted by severe drought."

Today's announcement builds on USDA efforts to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners mitigate the impacts of drought, including implementation of the livestock disaster assistance programs provided through the 2014 Farm Bill and $40 million in additional conservation dollars.

NIFA has identified three critical topics that will be funded through this new challenge area: 1) ensuring the water security of surface and ground water needed to produce agricultural goods and services; 2) improving nutrient management in agricultural landscapes focused on nitrogen and phosphorous; and 3) reducing impacts of chemicals and the presence and movement of environmental pathogens in the nation's water supply. NIFA's approach will link social, economic, and behavioral sciences with traditional biophysical sciences and engineering to address regional scale issues with shared hydrological processes, and meteorological and basin characteristics.

NIFA is expected to make $30 million available over the next five years for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) water challenge area, with the expectation that the new projects awarded this fiscal year would receive additional funding in the following four years. All additional funding is contingent on future congressional appropriations and achievement of project objectives and milestones.

Building on its investment in water research, NIFA will also fund projects through the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP), which addresses critical water resource issues including water quality protection and water conservation. The RFA for this program is expected to be released in the spring of 2014.

The NIWQP supports research, education and Extension projects and programs that address critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urbanizing watersheds. These projects reflect the growing need to combine knowledge from biological and physical sciences with social and economic sciences to address complex water issues.

The NIWQP focuses on addressing water issues at the watershed scale. Projects funded by the NIWQP are outcome-oriented, aiming to increase awareness and change behaviors related to water resource management.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).


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Governor Quinn Announces Coordinated Measures Being Taken for Extreme Weather Across Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Friday, 21 February 2014 16:43

Flooding Issues Anticipated from Snow Melt; Motorists Encouraged to Use Extreme Caution

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced coordinated measures being taken by Illinois state agencies to prepare for heavy snow and rainfall, along with potential flooding and treacherous driving conditions in areas throughout the state. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to keeping all Illinois residents safe this winter.

“As Illinois experiences another round of extreme weather, state of Illinois personnel and emergency crews are working around the clock to help keep people safe in these dangerous conditions,” Governor Quinn said. “I urge everyone to use caution and stay alert while outdoors and to only travel if absolutely necessary.”

National Weather Service forecasters predict the arrival of a strong cold front accompanied by strong winds with gusts over 50 mph, creating potential for whiteout conditions and debris on roadways. Flooding on pavements is also a concern with the combination of warm temperatures, melting snow, added rain, frozen surfaces and the anticipated temperature drop.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) crews are working to continually clear storm drains and are on standby to address the removal of snow and ice as needed from state routes to help ensure the safety of the motoring public.

Currently, all state routes are open. The Kampsville and Brussels Ferries remain closed due to ice on the river. IDOT will continue to monitor the weather statewide and respond accordingly. IDOT advises travelers to weigh the conditions carefully before venturing onto roadways during the storm.

“This unprecedented streak of winter weather continues to wreak havoc on Illinois, but travelers can be assured that IDOT crews will continue to work around the clock, as needed, to address flooding issues and to clear snow and ice,” IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “We also ask that the public continue to heed our advice to stay off the roads if possible during storms, and to drive sensibly to help avoid crashes, which often are caused by driving too fast for conditions or following too closely. Our goal is to help everyone get to their destinations safely and work towards zero fatalities on Illinois roadways.”

The Illinois Tollway has cleared storm drains and is patrolling its 286-mile system to ensure crews can quickly respond if any flooding issues arise in low-lying areas.

“For their own safety, drivers should avoid traveling through standing water,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “We urge our customers to travel cautiously and to dial *999 on a cellphone to report any flooding they may see on our roadways.”

The Illinois State Police (ISP) statewide will be monitoring road conditions and are advising motorists to use caution when driving. Depending on the weather conditions, motorists can expect ramp closures and re-routes. ISP will be working closely with IDOT and other agency partners to provide assistance to stranded motorists and updated information on any hazardous driving conditions. Motorists should expect delays and lengthy commutes.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is maintaining close contact with the National Weather Service and local emergency management agencies across the state to stay abreast of any flooding issues. If assistance to communities is needed, IEMA can quickly summon liaisons from more than a dozen state agencies to the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) to coordinate the deployment of state resources and personnel.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is collecting river stage and precipitation information, and reviewing river forecasts and precipitation forecasts issued by the National Weather Service in order to make informed situational reports to the IEMA. IDNR is providing field observations to IEMA to help assess the extent and severity of a flood emergency.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) warns residents about the dangers of electrocution, carbon monoxide poison and gas leaks in flooded basements. With the flooding alert caused by the melted snow followed by heavy rain today, residents with basements or living in units below ground level should unplug any electric appliances and bring them above floor level. In addition, furnaces, water heaters and boilers should be inspected and monitored during the flood alert as a precaution to prevent the possibility of carbon monoxide leaks and gas leaks.

Electric shocks and electrocution are a common flood danger caused by contact with energized electrical equipment. The OSFM recommends people avoid entering a flooded area if the power has not been shut off. It also warns the public to stay away from downed power lines or other electrical equipment, especially if they are wet or standing in water.

The Governor also announced the State Incident Report Center (SIRC) is active today to coordinate the state’s response to floods and will be in communication with other state agencies including ISP, IDOT, IDNR, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), the Illinois National Guard (ILNG) and the Red Cross.

Drivers are reminded to exercise caution when snow and ice or flooding affect roadways, and IDOT advises travel only when absolutely necessary during storms or when temperatures are extremely low. Due to current weather conditions, IDOT encourages motorists who must travel to check the latest winter road conditions and road closures at gettingaroundillinois.com.

During severely cold weather, the Illinois Department of Human Services advises that Illinois residents limit exposure to cold temperatures, dress in layers, check in on others who may need additional assistance, keep vehicles in good repair and bring pets indoors. For a list of warming centers in Illinois, visit KeepWarm.Illinois.gov.

Flooding-related driving tips:

  • Do not drive through flooded areas.
  • If a road covered by water seems shallow enough to cross, do not attempt to do so.
  • If your car stalls, do not attempt to push it out; seek higher ground.

 

Safety tips to remember:

  • Allow extra time for travel during the winter months.
  • Don’t crowd the plow – a snow plow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
  • Be aware that black ice can form on roads that appear clear and the unseen ice can be treacherous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas – all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible.
  • Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.
  • Do not travel during bad weather unless absolutely necessary – if you do have to make a trip, check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your travel route and schedule.
  • Always carry an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
  • Carry a few extra blankets in your car, and perhaps an extra coat to ensure protection in case of a breakdown.
  • Carry a cell phone and dial *999 for roadway assistance in case of emergency (but remember using handheld phones while driving is illegal if it is not an emergency situation).
  • Always wear a seat belt, front seat or back – it’s the law.
  • Check travel and road conditions routinely before any trip. You can get road condition information by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368), Illinois Tollway information by calling 1-800-TOLL-FYI or online at gettingaroundillinois.com and click on the “winter road conditions” icon.
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ASPCA Urges Pet Owners to Prepare for Winter Storms PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kelly Krause   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 14:11

Heeding some cold weather cautions can keep pets safe during storms Maximus and Nika

New York, N.Y.—In anticipation of multiple winter storms hitting the central and eastern U.S. this week, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) urges pet owners to take measures to keep their families and pets safe. Winter storm Maximus has already affected 30 states, many of which will also be affected by Nika later this week.

“With such heavy amounts of snow, it’s important to bring your pets inside and know what dangers your pets face in these extreme conditions,” said Dr. Dick Green, senior director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. “Winter storms create risks for both humans and pets alike.”

The ASPCA urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan that accounts for the safety of their animals, to stay up to date on community storm warnings, and to check with their local Office of Emergency Management for important information.

The following tips will help pet owners prepare for winter storms:

  • If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet. Never leave your pet outside during a snowstorm for longer than you would want to be out there with them.
  • Don’t let your dog off leash after heavy snowfall, as they can easily become lost.
  • Clean off your dog’s paws and belly with a moist washcloth after going outside. Snow-melting salt can be very painful to dogs’ feet and can make them ill if ingested. Clumps of snow can accumulate between toes and cause pain as well. Dog boots and salves can be purchased to protect sensitive dog paws.
  • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep underneath cars for shelter. Bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give any resting cats a chance to escape.
  • If you lose power, be sure candles aren’t in a location where your pet can knock them over.

To prevent your pet from going stir-crazy during this week’s storms, try these tips:

  • Give your pet a puzzle toy stuffed with food, such as a kong.
  • If pets get all their toys at once, they’ll get bored. Keep toys in rotation throughout the week so they feel new again.
  • Provide a perch where your cat can watch the action outside.
  • Hiding treats around the house can keep pets active and engaged. Keep in mind that any additional treats should be factored into their daily diet.
  • Going up and down stairs is a great way to help your dog exercise indoors, but be careful to avoid injury.

For more information on disaster preparedness and cold weather pet safety tips from the ASPCA, please visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness.

 
Governor Quinn Urges Safe Travel as New Snowstorm Approaches PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 11:23

Residents Should Use Extreme Caution While Traveling

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today urged people across Illinois to continue to take necessary precautions to stay safe and warm as the state continues to face a historic winter. As another major snowstorm approaches the area later today, strong measures are being taken by Illinois state agencies to continue keeping roads safe and clear. Today’s update is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to keeping all Illinois residents safe and warm this winter

“I urge everyone to take precautions at home and on the road as another major snowstorm heads our way,” Governor Quinn said. "If you must travel, please drive carefully. Our public safety workers have been working night and day to keep people safe and everyone must do their part to keep them safe as well."

The National Weather Service forecasts snow accumulations of five to nine inches throughout Illinois. Forecasters also warn of high winds up to 25 mph in some areas. The anticipated winter weather will create slick and dangerous travel conditions for motorists.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway will have their crews working around the clock to keep roads clear and passable. IDOT is readying its fleet of 1,755 snowplows and 3,700 employees ahead of the next winter storm to remove snow and ice. The Tollway is assigning its full fleet of 182 snowplows and more than 200 workers per shift to clear the roads.

Motorists are urged to drive defensively and safely, travel only if absolutely necessary, slow down and buckle up. In addition, a new state law prohibits motorists from talking on all but hands-free mobile phones while driving.

Other roadway safety tips to remember:

·        Don’t crowd snowplows – an operator’s field of vision is restricted.

·        Allow extra time for travel during the winter months.

·        Watch out for black ice. Roads may appear clear, but can be treacherous. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas – all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible.

·        Pull over and dial *999 for emergency roadway assistance.

Check travel and road conditions routinely before any trip. You can get road condition information by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368), Illinois Tollway information by calling 1-800-TOLL-FYI or online at gettingaroundillinois.com and click on the “winter road conditions” icon.

The Illinois State Police has assisted hundreds of motorists and reminds motorists to continue to use caution, reduce speeds and allow extra time. Officials are also reminding the motoring public to be mindful of Scott's Law and to yield to emergency and heavy equipment on the interstates and roads. Any minor accidents not requiring emergency care can be reported within 10 days at the nearest police station.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will continue to monitor the winter weather conditions throughout Illinois and stands ready to activate emergency state resources if necessary. IEMA also advises every household to have a disaster preparedness kit that will help residents stay safe for at least three days. The kits should include a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable food, water, a first-aid kit, extra medications and special items needed for babies, disabled or elderly family members and pets.

If you must travel, IEMA and IDOT recommend you equip your vehicle with an emergency supply kit to keep you safe in case you are stranded along the road. A vehicle preparedness kit should include a cell phone and charger, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, snack foods and water, blankets, extra warm clothing, gloves and hats, sand or kitty litter, shovel, windshield scraper, booster cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid and a tool kit. Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.

Before you depart, check weather and road conditions along your route and provide your planned route to a family member or friend. If conditions are dangerous, postpone travel until road conditions improve. IEMA and the National Weather Service have developed a Winter Weather Preparedness Guide that contains additional tips about winter weather safety. The guide is available at the Ready Illinois website at Ready.Illinois.Gov.

As the weather turns colder this evening, residents can take advantage of the state’s warming centers. These include Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state, which are open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Illinois Tollway Oases, which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To find a warming center near you, call the IDHS hotline at (800) 843-6154 or visit KeepWarm.Illinois.gov.

The Illinois Department on Aging is encouraging relatives and friends to make daily visits or calls to senior citizens living alone. Older people are more susceptible to the cold, so seniors should set their thermostats above 65 degrees. Those particularly vulnerable are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition, or who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease.

Tips to staying safe and warm in winter conditions:

·        Dress in layers, both indoors and outdoors.

·        Keep active. Make a list of exercises and activities to do indoors when you can’t get out.

·        Eat well and drink 10 glasses of water daily; stock up on non-perishable food supplies, just in case.

·        Keep extra medications in the house. If this is not possible, make arrangements to have someone pick up and deliver your medications.

·        Do not shovel snow or walk in deep snow. Plan now for someone else to shovel the snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

Additionally, shoveling snow is hard work and you should not shovel snow unless you are in good physical condition. Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your heart. Know your limits when shoveling snow. Rest frequently and pace yourself. If you become breathless, stop, go indoors and warm up before continuing. If you experience chest or arm pain or numbness, stop immediately and go indoors.

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Governor Quinn Urges Safety Ahead of Expected Snowfall PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Grant Klinzman   
Monday, 03 February 2014 09:44

Residents Should Use Extreme Caution and Travel Only if Necessary; Check on Neighbors

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced measures being taken by Illinois state agencies to prepare for the additional snowfall that is forecast for the next several days. He also urged residents to follow recommended winter safety procedures, including being careful when shoveling and checking on neighbors during the snowy weather. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to keeping all Illinois residents safe and warm this winter.

“Our public safety workers have been up to the task to keep people safe during this extreme winter weather,” Governor Quinn said. “As we prepare for another round of snow, I urge all motorists to drive with extreme caution and pay careful attention to others on the road.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway have their crews working around the clock to keep roads clear and passable. Motorists are urged to drive defensively and safely, travel only if absolutely necessary, slow down and buckle up. In addition, a new state law prohibits motorists from talking on all but hands-free mobile phones while driving.

Other roadway safety tips to remember:

·         Don’t crowd snowplows – an operator’s field of vision is restricted.

·         Allow extra time for travel during the winter months.

·         Watch out for black ice on roads that appear clear but can be treacherous. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas – all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible.

·         Pull over and dial *999 for emergency roadway assistance.

Check travel and road conditions routinely before any trip. You can get road condition information by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368), Illinois Tollway information by calling 1-800-TOLL-FYI or online at www.gettingaroundillinois.com and click on the “winter road conditions” icon.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will continue to monitor the winter weather conditions throughout Illinois and stands ready to activate emergency state resources if necessary. IEMA also advises every household to have a disaster preparedness kit that will help residents stay safe for at least three days. The kits should include a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable food, water, a first-aid kit, extra medications and special items needed for babies, disabled or elderly family members and pets.

If you must travel, IEMA and IDOT recommend you equip your vehicle with an emergency supply kit to keep you safe in case you are stranded along the road. A vehicle preparedness kit should include a cell phone and charger, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, snack foods and water, blankets, extra warm clothing, gloves and hats, sand or kitty litter, shovel, windshield scraper, booster cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid and a tool kit. Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.

Before you depart, check weather and road conditions along your route and provide your planned route to a family member or friend. If conditions are dangerous, postpone travel until road conditions improve. IEMA and the National Weather Service have developed a Winter Weather Preparedness Guide that contains many more tips about winter weather safety. The guide is available at the Ready Illinois website at Ready.Illinois.Gov.

Residents are urged to take advantage of the state’s warming centers. These include the Illinois Tollway Oases, which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On weekdays, Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. To find a warming center near you, call the IDHS hotline at (800) 843-6154 or visit KeepWarm.Illinois.gov.

The Illinois Department on Aging is encouraging relatives and friends to make daily visits or calls to senior citizens living alone. Older people are more susceptible to the cold, so seniors should set their thermostats above 65 degrees. Those particularly vulnerable are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition, or who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease.

Tips to staying safe and warm in winter conditions:

·         Dress in layers, both indoors and outdoors.

·         Keep active. Make a list of exercises and activities to do indoors when you can’t get out.

·         Eat well and drink 10 glasses of water daily; stock up on non-perishable food supplies, just in case.

·         Keep extra medications in the house. If this is not possible, make arrangements to have someone pick up and deliver your medications.

·         Do not shovel snow or walk in deep snow. Plan now for someone else to shovel the snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

Additionally, shoveling snow is hard work and you should not shovel snow unless you are in good physical condition. Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your heart. Know your limits when shoveling snow. Rest frequently and pace yourself. If you become breathless, stop, go indoors and warm up before continuing. If you experience chest or arm pain or numbness, stop immediately and go indoors.

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