MOUNT VERNON — Although the hurricane force winds which ripped through Knox County, causing millions of dollars in damage last September, may be fading from memory, National Severe Weather Awareness Week kicks off today, reminding everyone to keep themselves safe from threatening weather conditions.
Spring in Ohio traditionally means the threat of more severe weather, according to Brian Hess, interim Knox County EMA director.
“Tornadoes are the ones we need to bring the most attention to here in Ohio this time of year,” Hess said of possible threatening weather.
As Ohio transitions from winter weather into the windy, warming trends of spring, the threat of severe storms accompanied by tornadoes approaches its peak.
Fifteen tornadoes were officially recorded in Ohio during 2008, according to the Ohio Committee for Safe Weather Awareness. Fourteen of those occurred in the spring months of April, May and June.
In order to reduce the risk of deaths and injuries during these violent storms, emergency officials urge Ohioans to be aware and be prepared as spring weather approaches.
Hess urged people to stay informed about imminent storms by listening to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio, commercial radio and television broadcasts for updates about tornado watches and warnings.
During a tornado watch, conditions are favorable for a tornado, and such a storm is possible. Once a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, a tornado warning is issued.
During tornado warnings, NOAA radio, radio and television broadcasts should alert listeners to an imminent storm. The 15 outdoor tornado sirens in Knox County are also activated.
Hess said the tornado sirens are outdoor warning systems, designed to alert people who are outside know that a tornado is coming. He said having a battery operated weather radio is the best alert system for people indoors, or in areas where there is not coverage by a tornado siren.
“You absolutely need a weather radio,” Hess said.
New tornado sirens are soon to be installed in areas outside of Centerburg and Fredericktown, but some rural areas of the county will remain outside the coverage area of the sirens.
“The most important thing is for people to be aware,” Hess said.
Having a weather radio which can operate on batteries even in the case of a power outage is the best precaution residents can take for early warning, he said.
Another severe weather event common in Ohio during spring months is flooding.
“As we’re transitioning from the colder weather and the ground is saturated, we often get heavy spring rains,” Hess explained. “This is when we get the flash floods and the sustained high waters.”
The same notification system for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes also is utilized by NOAA weather for flooding, as well as some commercial and television broadcasters.
“For flooding, we’re better able to monitor areas by keeping an eye on water levels and dam levels, and staying in contact with different state agencies,” he said.
However, flash flooding, which occurs more rapidly, is also a threat in the spring, and throughout the year.
Hess said having a safety plan in place for weather emergencies means residents will not waste important time during a flood or tornado figuring out the quickest way to keep their family safe.
More information about developing a family disaster plan is available from the EMA office. Hess urged residents who have questions about developing a plan to contact the Knox County EMA office at 393-6772.
“Have more than one plan set in place if you can,” Hess said. “Don’t limit your options, and be prepared.”