What to know for peak Ohio tornado season

Peak tornado season has started in the Miami Valley and  suspected tornadoes struck as many as six local communities late Monday night.

Here’s five things you need to know for this season.

RELATED: Miami Valley tornadoes leave widespread damage in Montgomery, Greene, Mercer counties

1. We are at the end of peak tornado season in Ohio.

While tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, Ohio’s peak tornado season is April through July. There were 39 confirmed tornadoes in Ohio in 2017, with a tornado outbreak Nov. 5, resulting in 17 tornadoes in Ohio alone, according to state data.

2. Know the difference between a watch and a warning.

A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means that one has been spotted or will occur soon and you need to seek shelter immediately.

PHOTOS: Strong storms, winds wreak havoc on the Miami Valley

2. When there’s a tornado warning, immediately find a safe place.

Basements, storm cellars or interior rooms on the lowest floor with no windows are the safest place to gather with your family members and pets, according to the Red Cross.

If you are in a high-rise building and you also have no time to go to the lowest floor, move to a hallway in the center of the building. No mobile home is safe during a tornado, so if in a mobile home park, choose a close and sturdy building a head of time and if the mobile home park has a designated shelter, make it your safe place.

3. Make a plan in advance.

Think through where you would seek shelter during a tornado ahead of time. If you have children, make sure they know the family safety plan ahead of time. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends practicing a family tornado drill once a year.

PHOTOS: Xenia tornado devastation experienced in gritty black-and-white photos 44 years later

4. Know the signs of a tornado.

Stay alert for the signs of a tornado. NOAA says some things to look and listen for are:

• Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.

• Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base

• Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.

• Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.

• If at night, small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.

• Also at night, persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

5. After a tornado, stay alert. 

Stay away from power lines and watch out for puddles with wires in them. Watch your step for broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings, which could collapse. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.

For more information on tornado safety from the Red Cross, click here.