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11 Acts of Kindness in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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Between election bad blood and ongoing hurricane horror stories, there's no shortage of negative news right now. Take heart—good things are happening out there. These stories from 11 Sandy Samaritans are sure to give your spirits a boost. There are many more over at the Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness Facebook page, so stop over if you have one to share, or you just need a lift.

1. One Hundred Cups of Joe, on the House

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Chelsea Cranmer went to the Wawa in Barnegat, New Jersey, to grab a coffee on the way to work. When she went to pay, she was told to put her purse away. “I was a little confused until [the cashier] said a man came in and bought 100 cups.” Coffee addicts know that sometimes a hot cup of caffeine is all it takes to improve your outlook exponentially, so this seemingly small act is incredibly thoughtful.

2. A Generator for the Next Generation

Tim Dubriske took his pregnant fiancée to Pace’s Steak House in Hauppauge, New York, to try to cheer her up. "It’s not easy being pregnant and having no electricity, hot water, or heat,” he said. As they left the restaurant, owner Jimmy Pace chatted with Tim and his fiancée and realized the couple had no power and no generator. Pace insisted that they take his and even followed them home to help set it up. When Dubriske protested, Pace replied, “it's more important that your pregnant fiancée stays warm."

“All this from a business owner to two virtual strangers,” Dubriske wrote. “That's probably the most selfless act I've ever seen.”

3. Good Karma at Kmart

Sophia Parracho Ciesielski was chatting about the storm with Allison, a woman she had just met. She mentioned to Allison that she had been putting five and ten dollar bills into the pockets of sweatshirts and coats before donating them to Sandy victims. Before they parted ways, Allison pressed a bill into Ciesielski’s hand. The bill ended up being $100. Ciesielski used the money to purchase some essentials at Kmart, where two more total strangers overheard her explaining to the cashier that the purchase was going to Sandy victims. The two strangers flagged her down before she left the store and gave her items they had just bought to add to her donation pile.

“It was amazing to me that just in chatting, two complete strangers wanted to help another stranger in helping complete strangers,” Ciesielski said.

4. Good Sports

From Kate Pepper, a volunteer coach for Central Regional field hockey in Bayville, New Jersey: "Our school district covers most of Seaside Park/Seaside Heights/Pelican Island/Ocean Gate and many waterfront homes. We drove out to Moorestown High School to play a state game which we lost,” Pepper explained. “After the game, the Moorestown team called us over and gave us sandwiches to eat on our bus ride home and gift bags with towels/makeup/toiletries/blankets/etc. to take home to keep or give to a family in need. Their kindness will always be remembered by our team. Thank you so much, you made our day.”

5. Sandwich Samaritans

Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness Facebook Page

Sandy Daskawisz-Ogilvie went to a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Levittown, New Jersey, to purchase a mass quantity of bread, peanut butter and jelly to make a quick meal for hurricane victims and volunteers in Seaford Harbor. She asked if any discount for such a large purchase might be available and, according to Ogilvie, the manager replied, “Take as much peanut butter and jelly as you need at no charge.”

6. Finding a House at Pier 1

While Jacqueline Robin was shopping at Pier 1 Imports in Carle Place, New York, she noticed a “done-up” woman with freshly-done hair and nails chatting with a woman wearing a fleece jacket, looking downtrodden and perusing unscented candles. The “done-up” woman was relentlessly asking the second woman about her situation: where she was from, what happened and if she suffered many losses. The second woman was understandably still upset and didn’t want to talk about it.

“I’m sorry,” the first woman said. “I'm sure you don't want to talk about any of this, but to be honest I haven't seen anyone from the south shore up here in Carle Place and I don’t know what to do. I have a house in Lido Beach with heat, water and electricity and I was hoping to lend it to someone in need. Please let me offer this to you, since I am feeling like this is the least I can do. Do you need a house?"

After tears and hugs, the second woman accepted.

7. Front Lawn Film Fest

During a crisis, a little bit of camaraderie—and distraction—goes a long way. That’s what Matthew Andras was thinking when he decided to use his generator to hold a movie night on his front lawn. “I pulled out a TV and my neighbor contributed an old sound system. We had about 30 people come out and everybody brought what they could. We set up grills and tables and put a couple of fire pits out on the lawn. Yes, it killed my grass,” he admitted, “but [for] a worthy cause.”

8. Gratis Glasses

“My husband is the volunteer fire chief in our town and his glasses broke during the storm,” wrote Jillian Augustin Wojtasze from New Jersey. “We had a warranty on the glasses but I was not sure if they were covered. Since my store in Brunswick Square Mall was without power, I had to go to the LensCrafters in Menlo Mall in Edison. When I walked into the store and explained my problem, one gentleman, Keith, took the glasses and started to fix them while talking to me. He was able to take out the lens of the old glasses and place them in brand new frames. I was starting to calculate how much it would be when he handed them back to me, along with a new case, cleaning cloth, and lanyard. I asked how much and he said no charge. He said it was the least he could do for a brave volunteer."

9. Neighborhood Watch

Although New Jersey's Angela Kessler Wilson and her husband had moved to their neighborhood three years earlier, they hadn’t really gotten friendly with any of their neighbors beyond the basic courtesy wave over the fence. “We just had a baby right before Irene last year,” she explained. “Luckily we were okay for that, but this time we had a giant pine fall and narrowly miss the baby's room just as the storm was beginning. We lost power and our neighbor next door looked up our phone number and called to ask what [they could] do. We said no worries, we'll just call a tree company in the morning.

"The next morning the doorbell rang and our neighbor showed up with a chainsaw. As he started taking branches off and cleaning up, neighbor after neighbor came out and helped take the tree apart and put it on our front lawn. None of us had power but my next door neighbor had a generator and ran an extension cord all the way across his property to ours so we could keep the baby's milk cold. We are now on a first-name basis with everyone on our block and we have a Christmas party planned. We never realized what amazing people live right around the corner.”

10. What’s 600 Miles Between Friends?

When a man from Evansville, Indiana, heard about the devastation in New Jersey, he loaded his car up with groceries—many donated from members of his church—and drove 600 miles to help feed a neighborhood. Stan Gregory bought a grill and asked for directions to the hardest-hit area, then got to work grilling and recruiting people, some who hadn’t eaten in three days, to come have a hot meal.

11. Two EMTs with Heart

Jack Vaughn of Easton, New York PA, had been waiting for The Call for months. It came the Monday afternoon Sandy started bearing down on the East Coast: a heart, just the right size and with his blood type, was available for transplant 75 miles away in Philadelphia. The elderly Vaughns couldn’t make the trip themselves, and the Easton PD was too busy preparing for Sandy to send an escort. Enter Tara King and Cory Allen, two EMTs who had already worked 12-hour shifts but wanted to do more to help. Dodging downed trees and street signs and nearly getting blown off the road, they picked up the Vaughns around 6:30 pm on Monday night and were able to get Jack to Philadelphia in plenty of time for his successful heart transplant the next morning.

Note: Some of the original accounts have been edited for clarity.

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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job secrets
11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists
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The first weather forecast to hit national network television was given in 1949 by legendary weatherman Clint Youle. To illustrate weather systems, Youle covered a paper map of the U.S. in plexiglass and drew on it with a marker. A lot has changed in the world of meteorology since then, but every day, millions of families invite their local weatherman or weatherwoman into their living room to hear the forecast. Here are a few things you might not know about being a TV meteorologist.

1. SOME PEOPLE JUST NEVER MASTER THE GREEN SCREEN.

A view of a meteorologist as seen on-screen and in the studio against a green screen
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On-camera meteorologists might look as if they’re standing in front of a moving weather map, but in reality, there’s nothing except a blank green wall behind them. Thanks to the wonders of special effects, a digital map can be superimposed onto the green screen for viewers at home. TV monitors situated just off-camera show the meteorologist what viewers at home are seeing, which is how he or she knows where to stand and point. It’s harder than it looks, and for some rookie meteorologists, the learning curve can be steep.

“Some people never learn it,” says Gary England, legendary weatherman and former chief meteorologist for Oklahoma’s KWTV (England was also the first person to use Doppler radar to warn viewers about incoming systems). “For some it comes easily, but I’ve seen people never get used to it.”

Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist and co-host of The Weather Channel’s AMHQ, credits her green screen skills to long hours spent playing Nintendo and tennis as a kid. “You’ve gotta have good hand-eye coordination,” she says.

2. THEY HAVE A STRICT DRESS CODE.

Green is out of the question for on-air meteorologists, unless they want to blend into the map, but the list of prohibited wardrobe items doesn’t stop there. “Distracting prints are a no-no,” Jennifer Myers, Dallas-based meteorologist for KDFW FOX 4 writes on Reddit. “Cleavage angers viewers over 40 something fierce, so we stay away from that. There's no length rule on skirts/dresses but if you wouldn't wear it to a family event, you probably shouldn't wear it on TV. Nothing reflective. Nothing that makes sound.”

Myers says she has enough dresses to go five weeks without having to wear a dress twice. But all the limitations can make it difficult to find work attire that’s fashionable, looks good on-screen, and affordable. This is especially true for women, which is why when they find a garment that works, word spreads quickly. For example, this dress, which sold for $23 on Amazon, was shared in a private Facebook group for female meteorologists and quickly sold out in every color but green.

3. BUT IT’S CASUAL BELOW THE KNEE.

Since their feet rarely appear on camera, some meteorologists take to wearing casual, comfortable footwear, especially on long days. For example, England told the New York Times that during storm season, he was often on his feet for 12 straight hours. So, “he wears Mizuno running shoes, which look ridiculous with his suit and tie but provide a bit of extra cushioning,” Sam Anderson writes.

And occasionally female meteorologists will strap their mic pack to their calves or thighs rather than the more unpleasant option of stuffing it into their waistband or strapping it onto their bra.

4. THERE ARE TRICKS TO STAYING WARM IN A SNOWSTORM.

A young TV weatherperson in a snowy scene
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“In the field when I’m covering snow storms, I go to any pharmacy and get those back patches people wear, those heat wraps, and stick them all over my body,” explains Abrams. “Then I put on a wet suit. When you’re out for as long as we are, that helps you stay dry. I have to be really hot when I go out for winter storms.”

5. THERE’S NO SCRIPT.

Your local TV weather forecaster is ad-libbing from start to finish. “Our scripts are the graphics we create,” says Jacob Wycoff, a meteorologist with Western Mass News. “Generally speaking we’re using the graphics to talk through our stories, but everything we say is ad-libbed. Sometimes you can fumble the words you want to say, and sometimes you may miss a beat, but I think what that allows you to do is have a little off-the-cuff moment, which I think the viewers enjoy.”

6. MOM’S THE AUDIENCE.

Part of a meteorologist’s job is to break down very complicated scientific terminology and phenomena into something the general public can not only stomach, but crave. “The trick is … to approach the weather as if you're telling a story: Who are the main actors? Where is the conflict? What happens next?” explains Bob Henson, a Weather Underground meteorologist. “Along the way, you have the opportunity to do a bit of teaching. Weathercasters are often the only scientists that a member of the public will encounter on a regular basis on TV.”

Wycoff’s method for keeping it simple is to pretend like he’s having a conversation with his mom. “I’d pretend like I was giving her the forecast,” he says. “If my mom could understand it, I felt confident the general audience could as well. Part of that is also not using completely science-y terms that go over your audience’s head.”

7. SOCIAL MEDIA HAS MADE THEIR JOBS MORE DIFFICULT.

Professional meteorologists spend a lot of time debunking bogus forecasts spreading like wildfire across Twitter. “We have a lot of social media meteorologists that don’t have necessarily the background or training to create great forecasts,” Wycoff says. “We have to educate our viewers that they should know the source they’re getting information from.”

“People think it’s as easy as reading a chart,” says Scott Sistek, a meteorologist and weather blogger for KOMO TV in Seattle. “A lot of armchair meteorologists at home can look at a chart and go ok, half an inch of rain. But we take the public front when it’s wrong.”

8. THEY MAKE LIFE-OR-DEATH DECISIONS.

A meteorologist forecasting a hurricane
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People plan their lives around the weather forecast, and when a storm rolls in, locals look to their meteorologist for guidance on what to do. If he or she gets the path of a tornado wrong, or downplays its severity, people’s lives are in danger. “If you miss a severe weather forecast and someone’s out on the ball field and gets stuck, someone could get injured,” says Wycoff. “It is a great responsibility that we have.”

Conversely, England says when things get dangerous, some people are reluctant to listen to a forecaster’s advice because they don’t like being told what to do. He relies on a little bit of psychological maneuvering to get people to take cover. “You suggest, you don’t tell,” he says. “You issue instructions but in a way where they feel like they’re making up their own minds.”

9. DON’T BANK ON THOSE SEVEN-DAY FORECASTS.

“I would say that within three days, meteorologists are about 90 percent accurate,” Wycoff says. “Then at five days we’re at about 60 percent to 75 percent and then after seven days it becomes a bit more wishy-washy.”

10. THEY’RE FRENEMIES.

The competition for viewers is fierce, and local meteorologists are all rivals in the same race. “When you’re in TV, all meteorologists at other competitors are the enemy,” England says. “You’re not good friends with them. They try to steal the shoes off your children and food off your plate. If they get higher ratings, they get more money.”

11. THEY’RE TIRED OF HEARING THE SAME JOKE OVER AND OVER.

“There’s always the running joke: ‘I wish I could be paid a million dollars to be wrong 80 percent of the time,’” Sistek says. “I wanted to have a contest for who can come up with the best weatherman insult, because we need something new! Let’s get creative here.”

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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