Tornado sirens and alerts will sound today as a reminder to prepare for one nature’s mightiest storms.
Although peak tornado season in Ohio is generally from April to July, tornadoes have spun up in every month. In January, a twister downed trees, power lines and a building at a cemetery in Trumbull County. Another closer to home in February dragged the ground in Clark County for about six minutes in February.
While neither Ohio tornado this year caused loss of life, two left 23 people dead in Lee County, Ala., earlier this month, illustrating the need to know where to quickly find shelter during a storm.
“There are small, easy steps one can take right now to protect themselves and their loved ones,” wrote Jay Carey, 2019 Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness Chair External Affairs Officer, Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
Today’s sirens and alerts scheduled for 9:50 a.m. are for Ohio’s annual tornado drill conducted by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service. Local warning sirens, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios, and the Emergency Alert System will be activated to signal the start of the drill. All schools, citizens and businesses are encouraged to participate by reviewing and running through their action plan of what to do and where to go during severe weather.
“Perhaps you don’t have a basement, but you have a bathroom in the center of your home or business. Think to yourself, would it be big enough to accommodate everyone? Is the bathtub large enough? If the answer is no, where would you go? These are the questions you would want to answer now, not when a tornado is barreling down on top of you,” said Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.
The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness advises Ohioans to know the difference between a tornado watch and warning, and in the event of a warning to DUCK.
A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. Stay tuned to your local radio station or television for weather updates. Know where you’ll shelter, if necessary. A tornado warning means a tornado is happening or imminent and you should take shelter, or DUCK, immediately:
• Go DOWN to the lowest level
• Get UNDER something
• COVER your head
• KEEP in shelter until the storm has passed
Butler County winds
Nine times since 2000 winds have devastated a Butler County community. But the most costly, according to NOAA, was on May 25, 2011, when three communities sustained significant damage. Severe winds blew through Butler County that day, producing a tornado near Liberty Twp. Damages that day included:
• In Liberty Twp., an estimated $175,000 in damages was reported. A tornado was confirmed near Liberty Twp., which lifted the entire roof off a two-story home. The exterior walls collapsed. Three nearby residences sustained significant roof damage. Multiple vehicles in the path of the tornado were also damaged. Numerous trees and utility polls were snapped, and several homes had minor roof and siding damage. The maximum estimated wind speed based on damage was around 105 mph.
• In Fairfield, there were an estimated $70,000 in reported damages. Numerous trees were uprooted, several chimneys were damaged, several buildings had siding torn and shingles blown off, a carport collapsed, a power pole was snapped, and 20 cars at a car dealership sustained minor damage. Additionally, the roofs of two businesses were damaged.
• In Trenton, an estimated $32,000 in damages was reported. Seven homes were damaged and a vehicle was overturned. Also, two trees were snapped.
The eight other times severe winds wreaked havoc in the county include $265,000 in reported damages, according to NOAA.
The early March outbreak in Alabama accounted for all but one of the 24 tornado deaths so far this year, already more than double last year’s 10 fatalities. Despite the number of deaths, preliminary National Weather Service statistics show that between January and March the number of tornadoes has been much lower than expected to reach the U.S. annual average of 1,253 tornadoes between 1991 - 2010.
This year’s Ohio drill comes during the state’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, just two weeks away from the 45th anniversary of the April 3, 1974 tornado that killed more than 33 people and injured more than 1,300. That outbreak churned 148 tornadoes in 13 states in the eastern United States.
Carey said steps beforehand like preparing emergency kits for homes and cars, having a family communication plan and staying informed and knowing the difference between watches and warnings can be the difference between life and death.
“Take these words, this knowledge, and actually do something with it,” he said.