Archives February 2018

Chemical Plants Need to Be Cautious of Flooding

Along with the string of hurricanes in 2017 came flooding that just won’t seem to quit. The hurricanes may be over, but the flooding seems to be getting worse. This is not only a concern for homes that are in the water’s path, but it’s also a major issue for potential chemical spills.

The New York Times says that when the hurricanes left, the climate started to warm up. Because of this, there was a toxic spill in Baytown, Texas. Waters ended up flooding a chemical plant and released lye. A Florida fertilizer plant and an Ohio refinery saw the same kind of situation. The fear of this happening again is instilled in the minds of many.

At this point, any chemical plant near waterways in the impacted areas are at risk. A Climate Science Special Report says that flooding and climate change are going to get worse as the months go on. The heavy rainfall that many areas are experiencing is going to make the situation a lot worse.

The Times says that the location of these plants is due to a time when it was the easiest to transport goods to and from a certain area via a waterway. During that time, the flooding wasn’t much of a concern or a risk, so it didn’t stop anyone from building so close to the water.

Jeanne Herb, an environmental policy expert at Rutgers University, spoke to the Times regarding the rising water levels.

“Waterfronts are changing as a result of sea level rise,” she said. “More often than not, these are facilities are on the water for a reason. So how do we make sure that there are protections in place? That’s the big question.”

Back in 2015, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that required planners of buildings that were federally funded, roadways, and other infrastructure to make sure they built with flooding and rising water levels in mind. This would ensure that anything like a chemical plant would be protected against the dangers. However, when President Donald Trump took office, he rescinded the rules.

Every year, about 16,000 chemical spills are due to material transfers via trucks, tanks, and trains. However, this shouldn’t be the only concern. At this point, any companies looking to build in the near future need to be aware of potential risks and do what they can to take preventative measures.

Got Snow On Your Roof? Here’s Why You Should Remove It (And How To Do It)

Ah, winter. The holidays are fun and all, but in many parts of the country, dealing with freezing temperatures, snow, and ice gets old fast. This time of year often brings the need for home repairs to the forefront, like furnace issues, frozen pipes, and poor insulation. And then, of course, there’s your roof.

To put it plainly, a lack of roof maintenance can turn into a major issue once the snow starts to fall. A tiny bit of fluffy snow won’t hurt your home, but even half a foot of wet snow could cause damage. Six inches of wet snow is equal, in terms of weight, to 38 inches of dry snow. Letting the white stuff build up can lead to water leaks under your shingles, ice dams, or even roof collapse.

While roof collapse is certainly the most serious problem, ice dams can be disastrous, too. When snow melts and refreezes, it has no place to go — and that’s when ice dams form. Because ice dam formations can actually lead to both water leakage and eventual roof collapse, it’s key that these issues be removed before any long-term damage occurs.

Your best bet for snow and ice removal is to hire a professional. It’s a lot safer and you won’t risk damaging your home in the process. While professional snow removal doesn’t come cheap, many homeowners find it’s worth it. You still need to be careful when hiring professionals, though. The construction industry eliminated more than 40% of its workforce between 2006 and 2011, an action that impacted contractors, roofers, and other professionals. While good roofers may be easier to come by these days, there may be bad ones looking to take advantage. More demand means more opportunities. In Pennsylvania, there have been reports that some contractors are working illegally without state registration. This means there’s no guarantee that these roofers have insurance or are even qualified to do the job. And that leads homeowners vulnerable not only to financial fraud but to safety risks. To avoid this from happening to you, you should always check your contractor’s ratings on the Better Business Bureau website, ask for proof of insurance, and do a bit of Googling to look for bad reviews.

If you’re determined to DIY, there are some affordable options. Roof rakes cost anywhere from $30 to $50 a pop and can help remove heavy snow pile-ups. However, use them with caution; with very heavy snowfall, you could be removing a substantial amount of snow and may not know where it’ll land on your property. RoofMelt tablets can help, too. Just toss some on your roof and wait for the ice to melt. However, experts caution that homeowners should refrain from getting on their roofs themselves to remove the ice and snow, and that they should never put salt on the roof to melt the ice.

Overall, if you spot any cracks in your walls, spot a lot of ice buildup on your roofs or in your gutters, or are simply dealing with the aftermath of a big storm (typically, more than six inches of snow), call in the professionals. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth putting your safety or your home’s structural integrity at risk.

Washington State Law Now Tickets Drivers for Using Electronic Devices

We are all familiar with driving under the influence. This commonly refers to driving after drinking or driving after consuming drugs. However, a new law in the State of Washington will now cost you for driving under the influence of something completely different.

The new law called driving under the influence of electronics, or E-DUI bans cell phone use or the use of another electronic device while a person is driving, at a stoplight, or stopped in traffic. The law went into effect back on July 23, 2017. Since the law came into play, 6475 distracted driver warnings have been issued across the state.

KOMO says until now, drivers have just been issued a warning. But, now if you’re caught using an electronic device while behind the wheel, you will be issued a ticket. While a normal DUI conviction can cost $20,000 or more, your first E-DUI ticket will cost the driver $136. if a driver is taking it again within five years of their first offense, the fine will go up to $234. In addition to the fines, all information regarding using electronic devices behind the wheels will be made available to insurance companies.

According to KEPR, hands-free devices will be restricted to a single touch. Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste spoke with KOMO regarding driving while using devices.

“When you drive distracted, you are putting both yourself and other drivers in danger,” he said.”By eliminating distractions while driving, we will move closer to reaching the statewide Target Zero goal of no fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.”

Distracted driving fatalities increase to 32% from the years 2014 to 2015. This only applies to Washington State. Other types of distracted driving are also covered under this law. For example, say a driver runs a red light and a police officer is nearby to witness the action. If they run the light and did so due to things like putting on makeup or brushing their teeth while driving, they will be subject to a ticket. This ticket could set them back $99.

Idaho Company Repurposing Shipping Containers As Homes

IndieDwell, a company based in Boise, Idaho, is repurposing abandoned shipping containers as homes for the eccentric consumer.

Since steel shipping containers typically have a 25-year lifespan when being used to transport goods, they are the perfect pre-packaged shell for affordable housing. Or that’s what IndieDwell CEO Scott Flynn believes.

“We want to change people’s perceptions,” U.S, News reports Flynn saying about the container’s aesthetic. “They have one idea of what it looks like, and we want to show them the reality is something different.”

The company currently has their sights set on building 60 homes each year and eventually graduating to 2,000 if, as they optimistically believe, the idea catches on.

These containers are not the only old shipment technology that’s getting a tune-up. An old steam engine locomotive will be coming home to Topeka, Kansas where it will be restored.

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail is raising funds to bring this old train home, assess the status of its engine which was built in 1937, and ultimately make the necessary repairs.

Topeka residents are excited, and consider the train a part of their history.

“I’m excited to keep it in Topeka,” U.S. News reports president of CSR, Davidson Ward saying . “It has some significant history with that town. It ran to Topeka many times during its career.”

Today, trains are largely used for commercial transportation of goods, as opposed to public transportation.

Rather ironically, one of the three most valuable items trains regularly transport is the automobile. The other two are electronics and machinery.

Like long-haul truckers, freight trains also need to be weighed for theft prevention assurances. Due to how railways are designed, however, weigh in motion systems are used, so the train does not need to stop for any reason.

Load cells are used in freight weigh stations and on railways, and they typically can measure the weight within a .03-1% margin of error. A number of other metrics are used to capture true weight for weigh in motion systems in addition to these.

The train coming home to Topeka has no need for these bells and whistles, except for the bell and whistle used to signal everybody to climb aboard.

As shipping and freight technology continues to advance, old locomotives could become a distant memory of the past. Or, as Flynn is doing with his shipment containers, they could take on a new life by being repurposed as something completely different.

The plan, for now, is to teach children and history buffs about the train, according to Bette Allen, President of Great Overland Station in Topeka.

“It’ll be exciting,” she said, imagining the sight of happy children learning about the train, “Just to stand up next to those wheels is something.”

Americans Will Buy 8 Billion of These Classic Valentine’s Candies This Season

Everybody knows conversation hearts — those tiny and colorful message-covered candies that people seem to either love or hate. But as the candy corn of the winter season, these polarizing indulgences have certainly earned themselves a reputation worth conversing about. In fact, experts estimate that more than 8 billion conversation hearts will be sold throughout this Valentine’s Day season.

But that’s not all. Americans are also expected to spend about $1.7 billion on Valentine’s candy, and this year, conversation hearts may very well be dominating the Valentine’s candy conversation.

“There are choices to be made and people who study such things say that, nationally, conversation hearts last year pulled ahead of the traditional heart-shaped boxes of chocolate candy in total sales. Conversation hearts are those small, pastel hearts that say “Be Mine” or, more enigmatically, “Dare Ya.” These days they are as apt to say “Tweet Me” or “Text Me,” writes Matt Campbell on The Kansas City Star.

But this trend isn’t nationally unanimous; it largely depends on which state you’re in. Of all states, Missouri seems to have the most love for conversations hearts. Other states, such as Iowa, have a preference for chocolate candies like M and M’s. Alabama, surprisingly, favors the cousins of conversation hearts — candy necklaces.

These findings aren’t based on a random survey, either. They’re based on 10 full years of specific candy sales data from, which even has an interactive map in place to browse other states’ first, second, and third favorite V-day candies.

According to a 2014 Mass Merchant Study, 16% of unplanned purchases were due to a display noticed while shopping. But during the insatiable Valentine’s Day rush, the candy aisle practically empties itself — especially those tiny yet ever-so-sweet conversation hearts.

Clair Robins from the CandyStore blog says it best:

“There’s a new king in town, and it doesn’t come in a heart-shaped box.”

Wisconsin Fights For Dental Care For All With Boys and Girls Club

Dental care can get very expensive, and unfortunately that means that many people go without seeing the dentist as often as they should, or even at all. In fact, the number of children in the United States that go without dental care is up to 1 in 5. Fortunately, health care workers and activists around the country are passionate enough to try and solve this problem.

Just look to Dane County, Wisconsin, where a Boys and Girls club just opened a new dental clinic this January. This clinic is run by More Smiles Wisconsin, “a nonprofit organization offering low-cost dental services in south central Wisconsin,” according to the Cap Times. The dental care situation in Wisconsin seems a little bleak. More Smiles Wisconsin tells us that almost one third of the population of Wisconsin does not regularly visit a dentist.

This is why More Smiles and the Boys and Girls club are working tirelessly to provide critical dental care to young people in the area. This new location is actually the second clinic to be opened by More Smiles Wisconsin. After five years of planning, the organization was finally able to get a grant from Delta Dental, which turned their dreams into a reality.

More Smiles and their Boys and Girls Club clinics recognize how costly dental care can be, especially for those from low income families. To help these families, they accept insurance plans like Medicaid and Badgercare to provide care for those that do not have private health or dental insurance. In addition, they do not turn anyone away for their lack of ability to pay for the services they need. They even have serviced a homeless patient at their new clinic already.

More Smiles Wisconsin is hoping to open up a third clinic to service those on the north side of the county soon. Eventually, they would like to expand to the surrounding counties and even move out to the rural areas. Before they can do that, however, they are looking for more volunteers and donations to be able to grow their generous services.

These workers are, quite literally, bringing smiles to children’s faces.

MLB Hall of Fame Inductees Announced: Guerrero, Jones, Hoffman, and Thome

The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its four new members.

Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Him Thome were all elected to the prestigious Hall on Wednesday.

According to ESPN, both Thome and Jones were elected in their first year of eligibility. This is also only the fourth time in the history of the Hall that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected four players (1947, 1955, and 2015).

“This is the day that’s going to change my life forever,” said Jones, who played his entire 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves. “We have a handful of those during our lifetime, transcendent moments that just change your life forever. Today was certainly one of them.”

Jones, the eight-time All-Star and 1999 National League MVP, was also the second number one overall draft pick to make it to the Hall of Fame (Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016).

Guerrero, who nearly missed gaining admission into the Hall last year on his first year of eligibility, garnered 92.9% of the vote to become the first Dominican-born position player in the Hall.

During a swing’s peak, a baseball bat can travel around 80 mph, and Vlad nearly perfected the art of the swing as he hit 449 home runs and slugged .553% during his career (with a .318 batting average) and won the 2004 American Leave MVP award.

Thome’s highlights over his illustrious 22-year career include hitting 612 home runs (eighth all-time), 1,747 walks (seven all-time), and drove in at least 100 runs nine times.

And Hoffman, the only pitcher on this year’s docket, ranks second in all-time career saves with 601 and was the first pitcher ever to reach both the 500- and 600-save mark. Hoffman spent 18 years in the MLB and 15 and a half of those seasons with the San Diego Padres — he garnered entry on his third try with 79.8% of the vote.

These four players, alongside veterans committee inductees Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, will be officially honored in Cooperstown, New York, on July 29, 2018.