On April 3, a severe thunderstorm moved across the area, producing dangerous weather conditions resulting in the activation of a tornado warning. Individuals on the installation were warned to take shelter.
The National Weather Service has confirmed that four tornadoes touched down in the southwest area of Ohio during the storm. One of those tornadoes was only 8.9 miles from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
As the season continues to transition to warmer weather, personnel are reminded that it is essential to stay vigilant for the potential risks of severe thunderstorms and how to respond. Being proactive and preparing ahead of time will eliminate confusion that could put your safety at risk during a storm.
Severe thunderstorms have the potential to produce dangerous weather threats, such as lightning, tornadoes, straight-line winds, floods and hail.
The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness reports that Ohio’s peek tornado season is generally April through July, but keep in mind that tornadoes can happen any time of the year.
When a tornado warning has been issued, most communities will activate outdoor sirens to alert people to take immediate action. Many communities also offer push alerts through telephone calls or text alerts.
“A tornado watch is issued at Wright-Patterson AFB anytime that conditions are favorable for the further development of tornadoes on or near the installation,” said James C. Lane, senior operational meteorologist, 88th Operations Support Squadron. “Weather watches indicate a potential for environmental threats of such intensity as to pose a hazard to life or property and are used by operational commanders to make force protection and risk management decisions. A tornado warning will be issued, with a desire lead times of 15 minutes, when a tornado has been observed or indicated by radar and is anticipated to impact the base.”
The workforce at Wright-Patterson AFB are notified of severe weather through the Wright-Patterson Giant Voice and AtHOC notification system. If a tornado warning is issued, the Giant Voice will activate the siren. The AtHOC system will send watch and warning notifications through e-mail and as pop-up alerts on computer screens.
Alerts can be set up to send to cellphones and personal e-mail addresses. To personalize alerts, click on the AtHOC icon on your computer and go to “my profile” to update.
If a tornado warning is issued, take immediate action and take shelter in your designated location. Do not remain in your work area or get in your vehicle. Remain in the shelter until you are notified that the warning has expired and you are clear to return to your workplace.
Be mindful that if a tornado warning is issued, the safety of the Security Forces Defenders on Wright-Patterson AFB is paramount. To ensure their safety, outgoing and incoming lanes at the gates will close so that the installation entry controllers can take shelter while ensuring the security of the base, according to Maj. Aaron Rittgers, 88th Air Force Security Forces commander.
If you are in your vehicle during the gate closure, the National Weather Service recommends seeking shelter in a building nearby and waiting until an all clear has been issued. If you are not able to make it to a shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or leave your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine. Once the all clear has been issued, gates will return to normal operation and travelers can then resume entering and departing the installation.
Always stay weather ready and follow your local news to check the weather forecast for the possibility of severe weather. For additional information on weather safety, go to the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov.
Watches vs. warnings
To understand severe weather alerts, the National Weather Service defines weather condition watches and warnings as follows:
• Watch – is issued when the conditions are favorable to produce inclement weather. Be ready to act quickly if a warning should be issued. Watch areas typically cover a larger geographical area such as multiple counties or states.
• Warning – is issued when an event such as lightning or tornadoes have been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property and take immediate action and seek shelter. Warnings are more localized and cover a smaller area such as a city or county.