Lenovo donates laptops, tablets to Patterson High School

Tech giant Lenovo donated laptops and tablets to Patterson High School, which the students will be able to use to assist them in learning about coding, testing and developing mobile applications.

Lenovo choose Patterson as one of just 30 recipients from around the country after the school won an app competition that challenged high school students to develop Android-based mobile applications using a ThinkPad Tablet.

(Right) Patterson High School student Brian Clark demonstrates some of the applications he created to Patterson High School Science Teacher Dr. Ethelbert Ekeocha.

(Courtesy Photo)

(Right) Patterson High School student Brian Clark demonstrates some of the applications he created to Patterson High School Science Teacher Dr. Ethelbert Ekeocha.

Delivered to the school on September 24, 2015, the gear is part of the Lenovo Scholar Network program that is designed to provide robust mobile app development curriculum and advance STEM skills in the classroom.

In its second year, the program provides select National Academy Foundation (NAF) schools across the country with a comprehensive mobile application development curriculum, promoting critical thinking, team building and analytical skills needed to create the next generation of developers and innovators, according to school officials.

Patterson counts among 20 NAF academies selected to participate in the app program this year and, as a result, 30 students will be involved in the program and will participate in a project-based competition focused on designing and developing a mobile app and a business plan for taking the app to market.

“We were all thrilled, really excited and the students who got to try out the computers for the first time were also very excited about this,” said Nick Yates, a teacher and coordinator of the Lenovo program at Patterson.

Yates hosts an after school coding club and he and colleague, Sharon Ball, helped to submit the application that ultimately led Patterson to being selected to participate in the program.

“It’s an extremely valuable tool for what STEM is about,” Yates said. “This is a way for students to coordinate their homework and solve problems using apps which is absolutely an interesting way to apply and incorporate STEM into lessons.”

Yates is hoping that after an enthusiastic unveiling of the devices provided by Lenovo, more students will become interested in the program, he said in joining other school officials in plotting ways to get the most out of the new technology.

“Patterson High School is blazing the trail once again with the Lenovo and NAF partnership that encourages interest in STEM subjects and high-tech skills among high school students,” said Maxwell Alukwu, the director of Patterson’s Academy of Engineering. “Being the first in the city as a participating Lenovo Scholar Network Academy will allow our students to have access to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab’s App Inventor development tool to build and test apps.”

Through the network, students from Patterson will participate in mobile app development experiences that provide them with knowledge, resources, and practical experience to support their college and future career success.

The Lenovo Scholar Network is designed to encourage greater interest among underserved high school students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects while providing them with the high tech skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.

“After the success of our inaugural year, we look forward to continuing our partnership with NAF academies and their students through the Lenovo Scholar Network, providing students with the STEM skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace,” said Jason Mooneyham, vice president of Public Sector, Lenovo North America, said in a news release. “We are excited to enable this new class of scholars with the technology and skills they need to help them become the next generation of developers and innovators.”

Last year, more than 400 hundred students from 10 NAF Academies of Information Technology participated in the Lenovo Scholar Network.

This year, the program will expand to include students from across all of NAF’s career themes, including engineering, finance, health sciences, and hospitality and tourism.

In conjunction with MIT, NAF will now offer access to a self-guided course for Patterson High School teachers on App Inventor, an in-person teacher training, and regular “open office hours” with MIT staff via Google Hangout.

Lenovo will provide each of the participating schools ThinkPad laptops and YOGA Android tablets— a total investment of more than $500,000 over the three years of the program.

“The parents are excited about this too,” Yates said. “They really enjoyed the presentation at Back-to-School Night.”

Morgan, Howard receive scholarship donations at Chicago Football Classic

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, Morgan State University competed against Howard University at the Chicago Football Classic. Following the game, both schools received scholarship donations from Coors Light.

Dr. David Wilson, president, Morgan State University; and Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, president, Howard University; were on hand to accept the scholarship checks from MillerCoors Multicultural Brand Manager, Joe Sargent. (Left to right) Joe Sargent, Multicultural Brand Manager, MillerCoors presents $10,000 donations to Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, president, Howard University; and Dr. David Wilson, president, Morgan State University, at the Chicago Football Classic.

Coors Light has been a proud partner of the HBCU Classics for over 25 years, investing more than $1 million over the past seven years, supporting higher education through scholarships for students 21 and older.

New website launched to help Marylanders receive refunds after Supreme Court Decision

Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot urged eligible Maryland residents who filed and paid income taxes to another state between 2011 and 2014 to apply for a tax refund against the county portion of their Maryland state income taxes.

Refunds are now taking place following a recent Supreme Court ruling related to local income taxes.

“For years I have said that Maryland citizens were being overtaxed and overcharged, and now an estimated 55,000 taxpayers are eligible for substantial income tax refunds,” Governor Hogan said. “The Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year allows us to provide another $200 million in tax relief, which will immediately go back into the pockets of Maryland taxpayers, and back into our state economy.”

“For the thousands of Maryland taxpayers impacted by the Wynne decision, the Comptroller’s Office is working diligently to get your money back to you, where it belongs,” Comptroller Franchot said. “We have dedicated an enormous amount of resources, technology, and staff to getting refunds out the door as quickly as possible. To date, my office has processed more than 4,000 claims, returning more than $53 million to Marylanders.”

Maryland taxpayers should visit www.WynneTaxRefund.Maryland.gov to get more information on whether they are eligible for a refund. Individual circumstances vary and taxpayers are encouraged to seek advice from a tax professional regarding how this decision affects them. In general, Maryland residents who have paid taxes on income earned in certain jurisdictions of another U.S. state may be eligible for a tax refund. However, these refunds are not automatic, and taxpayers who believe they may be entitled to a refund are encouraged to file as soon as possible.

Earlier this year, Maryland residents Brian and Karen Wynne won their case in the U.S. Supreme Court after challenging that payment of local income in both Maryland and other local jurisdictions was illegal double taxation. The Wynnes won their case when a majority of justices ruled that Maryland’s income tax law was unconstitutional.

Pioneer of National Black Press is subject of book discussion

— The daughter of a Kentucky sharecropper, Alice Dunnigan rose from typist to Washington journalist as the first African-American female reporter acccredited to the White House.

In “Alone Atop the Hill: The Autobiography of Alice Dunnigan, Pioneer of the National Black Press” (University of Georgia Press, 2015), Carol McCabe Booker has condensed Dunnigan’s 1974 self-published autobiography to appeal to a general audience and has added scholarly annotations that provide historical context. Dunnigan’s dynamic story reveals her importance to journalism, women’s history and the civil-rights movement.

Booker will discuss and sign her book on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at noon at the Library of Congress in its Mary Pickford Theater, on the third floor of the James Madison Building, at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is sponsored by the Library’s Center for the Book. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

In addition to her White House reporting position, Dunnigan also was the first black female reporter to travel with a U.S. president; to be credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries; to be accredited to the State Department and the Supreme Court; and to be voted into the White House Newswomen’s Association and the Women’s National Press Club.

Carol McCabe Booker is a former journalist and Washington attorney. She is co-author with her husband, journalist Simeon Booker, of the acclaimed history “Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors

educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.

Six local women to be honored at Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception

— The 20th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception will be held Sunday, October 4, 2015, at the Frances Scott Key Auditorium at St. John’s College located at 60 College Avenue in Annapolis from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Reverend Diane Dixon Proctor

Reverend Diane Dixon Proctor

Sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County and co-sponsored by St. Johns College, the awards recognize women who have contributed to the advancement of civil and human rights in Anne Arundel County. This year’s honorees— Ann Davis, Lisa Ennis, Karen Slade, Mary DesChamps, Dr. Dawn Lindsay and the Reverend Dr. Diane Dixon-Proctor— join the ranks of over 100 other notable women including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Administrative Law Judge Tracey Warren Parker and former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer who have been similarly honored over the past two decades.

Mary Des Champs

Mary Des Champs

Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader and philanthropist. The awards that bear her name recognize women from various racial backgrounds who, while not necessarily household names, have excelled in their chosen field while working diligently to improve civil and human rights in the region.

“Mrs. Hamer was a feminist and a civil rights heroine,” said Carl Snowden, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. “Each year, on the eve of her birthday, Marylanders pause to honor this Mississippian, a sharecropper, who shared a passion for economic and social justice.”

A committee of community residents chooses six outstanding women each year from a list of nominees who live and/or or work in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel is the only jurisdiction in the State of Maryland to celebrate Hamer’s memory with awards of this nature.

“We are living right now in a world that is fighting for change on many levels, from social unrest in out cities, to expansive international crises,” said Sen. Mikulski, a 2009 Hamer honoree. “And while the news may seem grim, there is inspiration every day around the world as people come together to bring about peaceful change.”

The awards ceremony will include musical performances by Antonette Maddox and Randi Roberts as well as the Annapolis debut of “This Little Light of Mine: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Legacy,” a documentary film on Hamer’s life by journalist Robin Hamilton.

Fannie Lou Hamer was instrumental in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Her plain spoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker. She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965, and was seated as a member of Mississippi’s official delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1968, where she was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War.

Hamer also worked on other projects, including grassroots-level Head Start programs, the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Hamer died at the age of 57. Her tombstone is engraved with one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Tickets are $35 in advance, and also will be available at door. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 301-538-6353 or 410-419-2208 or email arankin58@hotmail.com.

Teaching our dollars to make sense

When Donald Trump first spoke about his intentions to run for president and called out Mexicans and Hispanics in general, here’s what happened. Yes, there were protests in the streets by Latinos who felt they had been insulted by Trump, but further action was taken, not by Latinos but by corporations.

According to an article by Sarah Berger, with the International Business Times, “[Macy’s] said they would no longer carry Trump’s menswear collection, which featured shirts, ties and watches.” Further, “Macy’s is not alone: NBCUniversal, Univision, mattress maker Serta and other companies have also cut ties with Trump…The broken deals point to the growing influence of Hispanic consumers in the United States. As the Latino demographic in the United States rapidly increases, so does their buying power, and businesses are starting to realize that value.”

Economics raises its head again, doesn’t it? Macy’s was not boycotted or targeted by Latinos in any way. Why did they feel obliged to cut ties with Trump when he dissed Hispanics? A better question is: “Why haven’t we seen companies take any corresponding action on behalf of black people? Remember the Indianapolis incident earlier this year, when corporations threatened to move their companies out of that city if the law that “discriminated” against gay people was not changed? It took about 24 hours for it to be changed.

John Crawford was killed in a Walmart for holding a BB gun, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in two seconds for holding a toy gun, Eric Garner was choked to death on national and TV after saying “Why do you keep bothering me?” and Sandra Bland was arrested and died three days later because she failed to signal a lane change and was smoking in her own car. Did any corporations make threats against anyone on their behalf?

Macy’s and the others punished Trump without being asked to do so, because they respect the $1.5 billion buying power of Hispanics. That’s it, plain and simple. “But annual black buying power is $1.2 trillion, Jim; why are we ignored?”

Major corporations with whom we spend much of that $1.2 trillion each year have, a “depraved indifference” to our plight, as Bob Law says. They do not respond to our issues in the same way because there is no price to pay for not doing so. We get slapped upside the head by politicians and our big bad NAACP tells us to take a 1,000-mile walk. One of our children gets shot down or beat down and NAN says “Let’s ‘maach’ on Washington.”

A young black man is killed in a Walmart and our “leaders” rally in front of that store—for a day. Our unemployment is at an all-time high, despite the “great economy” they say we are in, and the National Urban League writes a report each year telling us how bad things are for black America. Our voting rights are being discarded, our HBCU’s are losing millions because of Parent-Plus Loan changes, we are ignored and taken for granted by both political parties, and black politicians like John Lewis tell us to vote our way out of our problems.

It’s no wonder we don’t get the same respect and support as other groups. The ways we respond to negative issues allow the mistreatment we get from others. Take the “Black Lives Matter” mantra. Of course our lives matter and it makes no difference if others have a problem with our saying it. But we have some black folks who are trying to gain acceptance from others and trying to make others feel comfortable with us by adding to the phrase, “All lives matter,” which is obvious to most people anyway. Saying and acting upon the fact that black lives matter “less” than all other lives is important, but we must act appropriately upon what we say.

Carlos Santiago, president and chief strategist of Santiago Solutions Group said, “Latino customers represent an opportunity for Macy’s to grow its business model…Macy’s Hispanic base of buyers is significant and growing while the ‘non-Hispanic’ is declining slowly. They [Macy’s] have to protect their growing loyal base just as their competitors like Nordstrom, JC Penney’s, Target and Walmart are. In this race to capture the new growth, a change in public image is worth millions of dollars in goodwill and loyalty.”

The appropriate response to those who transgress against us must be grounded in economics. We spend money at Macy’s, as well as many other corporations. Why have they not spoken and acted on our behalf? As I have written many times, until we are serious about gaining the support of those with whom we do business, they will ignore our plight and take our dollars for granted.

Our economic response must be “Black Dollars Matter!” And we must teach our dollars how to make more sense.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He can be reached through his website: blackonomics.com.

We face real challenges to representative democracy

People who care about the United States’ place in the world often fret about challenges to representative democracy from other countries. I’d contend that the more formidable challenge comes not from abroad, but from within.

For starters, it’s hard to make American representative democracy work. Our country is large, growing and astoundingly diverse by every definition of the term. To govern it, we rely on a bewildering array of branches and units of government, which means that to solve a problem you have to navigate a slow, untidy system.

Our challenges come at us with rapidity and mind-boggling complexity. They include racial and class divisions, the social and economic pressures confronting families, a strained public education system, a constant flow of complex foreign and economic policy questions. To deal with them, every level of our system needs to be at the top of its game.

Two of our basic governing institutions, Congress and the presidency, are struggling. Congress has adopted some unfortunate political and procedural habits: it governs by crisis, fails repeatedly to follow time-tested procedures that ensure accountability and fairness, panders to wealthy contributors, and too often erupts in excessive partisanship. There are glimmers that some members are willing to re-learn the legislative arts of negotiation, compromise, and consensus-building, but these need to be front and center, not an occasional hobby: in a government that reflects the American population, Congress cannot function effectively without these skills.

The presidency, too, faces challenges. The executive branch is bloated, has too many decision makers and bases to touch, lacks accountability, and desperately needs better, more effective management.

Moreover, the decades-long march toward increased presidential power at the expense of the legislative branch severely undercuts our constitutional system and raises the question of how far down this road can we go and still have representative democracy. There are valid reasons it has happened, especially because the modern world demands quick, decisive action but our system functions best when we have a strong president and a strong Congress who can interact, consult, and work together.

We face other challenges as well. Too much money is threatening the core values of a representative democracy. And too many Americans have become passive and disengaged from politics and policy; representative democracy is not a spectator sport.

Despite its challenges, our political system forms the core of American strength. It enshrines fundamental power in a body elected by the broad mass of the people, and is based solidly on the participation and consent of the governed. Allowed to work properly, it is the system most likely to produce policy that reflects a consensus among the governed. Above all, it has the capacity to correct itself and move on.

In other words, we don’t need to reinvent our system, but rather use its abundant strengths to find our way through our problems and emerge stronger on the other side.

It is not written in the stars that representative government will always prosper and prevail. It needs the active involvement of all of us, from ordinary voters to the president. Each of us must do our part.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Collecting $200 Million from the debt collectors

— At one time or another, many consumers have fallen behind on paying their bills. For the working poor, unemployed and underemployed, the struggle to get out of debt can be a daily challenge. At the same time, there are businesses that exploit others’ financial woes, reaping high profits on debt purchased for just a few cents on the dollar. In some scenarios, debt buyers become nagging collectors who hound consumers at all hours of the day and night.

The irony is that the harassment is not always warranted or even accurate. Debt buyers have a documented history of suing the wrong person for the wrong amount. In the worst scenarios, some consumers first learn of alleged debts after a court judgment has been entered against them.

These are only a few of the concerns that recently led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to take enforcement actions against the nation’s two top debt collectors. CFPB’s actions also suggest that financial abuses may be inherent in debt buyers’ business models. Together, the San Diego-based Encore Capital Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries comprise the nation’s largest debt buyer and collector. The Norfolk-based Portfolio Recovery Associates, the second largest debt operation, will halt collections totaling $128 million. The firms will also pay another $61 million in consumer refunds and an additional $18 million in penalties.

“Encore and Portfolio Recovery Associates threatened and deceived consumers to collect on debts they should have known were inaccurate or had other problems,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Now, the two biggest debt buyers in the market must refund millions and overhaul their practices. We will continue to take action to protect consumers from illegal and obnoxious debt collection practices.”

The litany of CFPB’s charged offenses read like a primer of what not to do in consumer lending. Here are just a few of the illegal and deceptive actions the firms were charged with:

  • Illegally attempting to collect debt they knew, or should have known, may have been inaccurate or unenforceable;
  • Collecting debts through lawsuits and threats of legal action in unlawful ways;
  • Falsely telling consumers the burden of proof was on them to disprove the debt;
  • Suing or threatening to sue consumers past the statute of limitations; and
  • Disregarding or failing to adequately investigate consumers’ disputes.

“The Portfolio Recovery Associates and Encore Capital Group consent orders underscore the questionable tactics used by even the largest debt buyers attempting to collect old debts – deception, intimidation, and the mass-production of lawsuits against the wrong people for the wrong amount of money,” said Lisa Stifler, a policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). “Consumers deserve to be protected from wrongful collection and legal action.”

Further, abusive debt collection is annually among the top complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and the CFPB. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, CRL is working with lawmakers and regulators at both the state and federal levels to ensure that consumers are effectively protected from unscrupulous and predatory businesses.

Beyond CFPB’s enforcement actions, state attorneys general in Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and West Virginia have all taken state actions against debt buyers and their collection practices. In New York alone, more than 7,500 court judgments valued at more than $34 million have been vacated between 2014 and 2015.

Commenting on the New York actions, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “My office will continue to hold debt collectors and lenders accountable so that New Yorkers can keep more of their hard-earned money where it belongs – in their pockets. It is absolutely urgent that the CFPB propose new rules that will stop all debt collectors from engaging in abusive behavior, prevent them from collecting debts based on inaccurate information and punish them when they do lie to courts and consumers.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Could Hurricane Joaquin be another Superstorm Sandy?

— It’s October. A powerful hurricane is brewing in the Bahamas. The whole system is threatening to head straight north to the United States.

You can’t blame the people along the East Coast if they’re having a Superstorm Sandy flashback when it comes to Hurricane Joaquin.

The powerful tropical system became a major hurricane overnight. And over the next day, the Category 3 storm is expected to only get stronger.

The good news: If current projections hold, Joaquin won’t be another Sandy.

The not-so-good news: Hurricane projections are notoriously unpredictable. And regardless of whether Joaquin makes landfall, it probably will cause plenty of rain and more flooding along an already soaked East Coast.

Where it is now

For the next couple of days, Joaquin will be pounding the Bahamas, an archipelago nation with more than 350,000 people, before heading north.

Thursday morning, the storm already was whipping Bahamian territory with hurricane-force winds, with the eye about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the country’s Samana Cays.

Its maximum sustained winds were at 120 mph, midrange for a Category 3. But forecasters say it could strengthen to a Category 4 — with 140 mph winds capable of causing catastrophic damage — by Thursday night.

The slow-moving storm is expected to batter the Bahamas through Friday. Ten to 20 inches of rain could fall over much of the central Bahamas through Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Rain isn’t the only concern: Dangerous storm surges — with water levels as high as 5 to 8 feet above normal tides — are possible on the central Bahamian coasts.

Swells from Joaquin also will affect the southeastern U.S. coast by Thursday, potentially creating life-threatening rip currents, the hurricane center said.

Where it might make landfall in U.S.

Joaquin’s forecast track shows it could be near North Carolina by Monday and possibly New Jersey a day later, hauntingly close to where Superstorm Sandy made landfall in 2012.

It was just three years ago this month that Sandy slammed the northeastern United States, devastating parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

But the projected path of the current storm system already has changed multiple times and could change again.

And should Joaquin make it back to the areas Sandy devastated before, it’s not expected to pack the same punch.

How bad it’s likely to be

When Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, it had hurricane-force winds. Joaquin is projected to be a tropical storm once it gets that far north.

The rain? Now that’s a different story.

No matter where Joaquin goes, the storm is expected to bring significant rainfall to the East Coast, where some states already were dealing with flooding from separate systems this week.

“One way or the other, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and on up will get between 5 and 10 inches of rain — even without a direct landfall,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “If we get a landfall, we get 15 inches of rain and winds of 80 mph.

“But without even a direct landfall, there will be significant flooding through the Carolinas, through Virginia, and all the way up the East Coast.”

Parts of the eastern U.S. from Florida to New Jersey were under flood watches and warnings Thursday morning, with more than 10 inches of rain already having fallen in some areas this week.

Flooding made some streets impassable in Portland, Maine, on Wednesday. Several cars were stalled on one street there after their drivers tried to make it through standing water, CNN affiliate WMTW reported.

Floodwater rose to the top of vehicles’ tires at a Whole Foods store in Portland, stranding drivers, WMTW reported.

And water rushed into a church basement that houses a Portland day care center, prompting staff to evacuate nearly 30 children and call parents to pick them up.

“In a matter of 10 minutes, we were completely underwater with a couple of inches of standing water in all of the hallways and in the classrooms,” day care center director Annie Macvane told WMTW.

How communities are getting ready

Coastal communities prepared for Joaquin’s expected weekend visit.

“The ground gets saturated, trees come down, there can be a lot of different issues,” Paula Miller with the Virginia Department of Transportation told CNN affiliate WAVY. “If the ground is so saturated that trees start coming down in the roadways, obviously that’s going to be one of the things that we’re going to be prepared to respond to.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

In eastern Pennsylvania, folks were taking the threat just as seriously. The Poconos took a beating during Sandy.

“What we’re expecting here is to be on alert for flash floods as well as power outages, and so we’re trying to get the word out to the community to think ahead, to have a plan,” Michele Baehr with the Red Cross told affiliate WNEP.

Dwyane Francis of Bushkill stocked up on canned goods.

“Preparation is the key. You have to be prepared for everything,” he said.

Yet, some found humor in the hurricane called Joaquin.

Doug Mataconis tweeted a tracking map featuring the head of actor Joaquin Phoenix during different phases of his career.

CNN’s Sean Morris, Monica Garrett and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.

Get your home fall and winter ready with 5 simple projects

— If boots, a warm hat and a tuned-up snow blower are the only items on your winter preparation list, your home maintenance plan may need a makeover. These simple home maintenance projects can help lower your energy bills, prevent more costly repairs and/or increase the lifespan of your home.

  1. Heating & Ventilation – Examine your fireplace and chimney system to ensure that no soot or creosote has collected. Any cracks or voids could potentially cause a fire. Before you turn the furnace or boiler on, replace the air filter and hire a professional to inspect the unit more thoroughly. These steps will improve the efficiency and life of your furnace and will ensure stable indoor air quality.
  2. Seal Windows and Doors – If not properly sealed, windows and doors can be a major culprit for heat loss. To keep the warm air inside, inspect the weather-stripping around your home’s windows and doors for leaks, rot or decay. Repair or replace structural framing, and caulk inside and out, if necessary.
  3. Insulate well – One of the easiest and most effective defenses against heat loss is proper insulation. Prevent cold drafts from entering and the loss of heated air through basement headers, which, when left exposed, can make your furnace work harder. Look for a moisture-resistant product offering high thermal performance, such as Roxul Comfortbatt insulation. This type of mineral wool insulation makes installation simple. All that’s needed is a serrated blade or bread knife. Cut the batt to fit the cavity and press into place. The insulation will help improve energy efficiency as soon as it’s in place and provide savings over the lifetime of your home. Comfortbatt can also be used to top or replace old attic insulation. Aim for an R-50 or a depth of 16 inches.
  4. Backyard Care – Save your property from potential damage by trimming overgrown trees and shrubs to prevent ice-laden branches from thrashing against electrical wires and your home’s exterior. Drain/shut off any exterior faucets and sprinkler systems to prevent freezing. Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems.
  5. Roof and Gutters – Inspect your roof for shingles that are warped, damaged or even missing to prevent a future leak. Use roofing cement and a caulking gun to seal joints where water could penetrate, such as around the chimney, skylights or vent pipes. Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are securely fastened. Downspouts should extend at least five feet away from the home to prevent flooding.

When it comes to preventative maintenance, a little time and effort can save thousands in energy costs and repair bills over the lifetime of your home.