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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Football Follies


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
You wouldn’t know it if you check the thermometer outside, but it’s the start of football season.  Since football is one of the most popular sports in the country, I thought I’d take the time to point out some of the epic fails that can occur to ardent fans who let their enthusiasm for the sport get the better of them.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Car Myths Busted


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
When it comes to motor vehicles, there are many assumptions that drivers hold as true that are anything but.  That’s because with the Internet, falsehoods as well as fake news abound.  To try to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to your automotive beliefs, I thought I’d take the time to tell you what’s what when it comes to car myths. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Thwarting Cyber Thieves


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
What’s in a name?  To Shakespeare it was the start of a line Romeo used to woo the fair Juliet more than 400 years ago.  In more modern times, the value of a name can be vast, particularly if an identity thief manages to pilfer yours.  According to Forbes Magazine, the cost of identity theft during the past six years is more than $107 billion in the US alone.  What’s even worse than the dollars and cents cost of this crime is the effect it can have on your family, your friends and your job.  That’s because once stolen, an identity thief can use your good name to open fraudulent bank accounts, acquire credit cards, duplicate your social sites and even file for tax refunds with the IRS.  In short, once a thief gets hold of your personal information, they can make your life a living hell that could take you months to bounce back from.  If you don’t want to see your good name tarnished, there are some steps you need to take to protect your identity.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Learning to Live with Lightning


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Max Pixel
They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes.  But during the summer in Florida, there is a third sure thing: Lightning.  Just as the Midwest is called Tornado Alley, Florida is known as Lightning Alley for good reason.  Florida leads the nation in lightning strikes year after year.  While Central Florida heads the list with 50 strikes per square mile, the northern part of the state where I live doesn’t lag far behind.  During July and August, odds are that an afternoon pop up thunderstorm will make its presence known on a nearly daily basis.  While all the rain is good for our plants and lawns, the downside is that thunderstorms pack a punch when it comes to lightning. 

1.      How big of a jolt does a bolt from the blue pack? – A typical lightning bolt packs a billion joules of electricity.  That’s enough power to light a 60-watt bulb for six months straight.  Unfortunately, it’s also enough juice to fry your home’s electrical grid or set a tree on fire in less than a second. The heat alone from a lightning strike is hot enough to turn sand into glass, since a typical bolt from the blue generates temperatures hotter than the surface of the Sun. 

2.      What should you do when a thunderstorm heads your way? – Even more incredible than the sheer power of lightning is the fact that a bolt can travel up to 10 miles from cloud to ground.  That’s the reason it’s not such a good idea to remain outdoors when you see a thundercloud.  Even if you can’t yet see the cloud, whenever you hear a distant rumble of thunder, it’s time to pack it up and head indoors.

Image courtesy wikimedia
3.      How does lightning form? -  What causes a storm to form is heat and moisture, which Florida has an abundance of in the summer.  When air heats up it rises.  The higher it rises the cooler moist air becomes.  This in turn forms clouds.  While not every cloud becomes a thunderhead, the reason cumulonimbus clouds form has to do with the altitude that hot moist air can reach in the summer.  The top of a thunderhead can reach an altitude of more than 50,000 feet.  That’s higher than an airliner’s cruising altitude.  The higher the cloud gets, the colder the temperature becomes.  This forms ice particles that rise and fall within the cloud.  When these ice particles bump into each other, they create an electrical charge that continue to build within the cloud. Positively charged particles form at the top of the cloud and negatively charged particles form at the bottom of the cloud.  When the positive and negative charges grow large enough, a giant spark occurs between the positive and negative poles.  Believe it or not, most lightning bolts never reach the ground but instead remain within the cloud.    

4.      What causes lighting to strike? – Lightning can strike either up or down.  A cloud-to-ground strike begins when a stepped series of negative charges race faster than the eye can see from the bottom of the cloud toward the earth at more than 200,000 mph.  When this so-called stepped ladder gets about 150 feet from the ground, it begins searching for a positive streamer which radiates from objects on the ground.  (These can include trees, power towers, telephone poles, buildings or even people.)  When streamer and ladder meet, the accumulated charge within the cloud is discharged at two billion mph.  The rapid expansion and heating of the air is what produces the clap of thunder we all hear after a lightning strike.

5.      Where should you go when you hear thunder? – The safest place to seek shelter during a thunderstorm is indoors.  This includes both structures and vehicles.  When it comes to cars, it’s not the rubber tires that protect you from a strike.  It’s the metal body which lightning courses through to ground.  Lightning has been known to strike cars, airplanes and even spacecraft.  Apollo 12, the second mission to land men on the Moon, was actually struck twice on its way to orbit, disproving the theory that lightning never strikes twice.  If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, do not seek shelter under a tree.  Not only is a tree likely to produce a positive streamer that can initiate a strike, if hit, the water in the trunk will flash into steam turning bark and tree limbs into shrapnel.  Even being in close proximity to a tree is enough to cause you to get electrocuted when the charge is transferred from cloud to ground.  If you are caught in the open as a storm approaches, your best bet is to get as low as possible.  A ditch or a depression is better than being in an open field, a tent or a covered pavilion.  Likewise, you should also get well away from bodies of water such as the ocean, a lake or a swimming pool, since water can conduct electricity a long way.

Image courtesy flickr
6.      What the hail? – While hail can be painful, unless the diameter of the hailstones is greater than a quarter inch (which rarely occurs in Florida), it’s preferable to be pelted by frozen precipitation than risk being struck by lightning as you seek shelter.  Simply holding a beach towel or your shirt over your head should be sufficient to ward off most of the hail.  Above all, do not raise an umbrella during a hailstorm, since this could invite a lightning strike. 

7.      Can you lightning-proof your home? – While getting struck by lightning is certainly a danger, having your home get struck can also pose a threat.  While anything short of a lightning rod will be unable to redirect a bolt from the blue, the best way to protect appliances during a thunderstorm is to unplug them.  Second best is to invest in a whole house surge suppressor or individual suppressors that are designed to take a lightning strike.  Don’t believe for a minute that those bargain basement $9.99 suppressors are going to survive a strike.  They can barely handle a power surge caused by fluctuations in the current flowing into your home.   

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Come Hell or High Water


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Baby, it’s hot outside.  The worst part is that the only time it seems to cool down is after the afternoon thundershower has rolled through town.  With another six weeks or so of summer weather yet to come, I thought I’d take the time to point out what you need to do to make sure that neither heat nor rain spoils your fun by damaging your home.  Below is my short list of the do’s and don’ts of managing your house and yard to fend off the worst that Mother Nature can throw at you between now and Autumn.

How to Avoid Used Car Scams

By Catherine Powell Image courtesy flickr If you’re like most consumers, you tend to hold onto a car as long as it still has some ...