MOUNT VERNON — As Saturday kicked off the official start of spring, this week is the time to educate the public about possible weather circumstances during Severe Weather Awareness Week.
Severe Weather Awareness Week kicks off today– March 23, 2009
Knox County feels wrath of hurricane– September 15, 2008
Alert sirens work well in county– April 2, 2008
Businesses can practice emergency plans, drills– March 26, 2008
Area responders ready for severe weather– February 21, 2008
Preparedness key to surviving a tornado– March 17, 2007
Sirens sound warning in times of bad weather– March 16, 2007
How a tornado forms– March 16, 2007
“This week is really about education,” said Brian Hess, director of the Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “It brings weather to the forefront statewide. It also shows the importance of what can happen in Knox County.”
The two important weather occurrences to be prepared for, Hess said, are floods and tornadoes. Knox County’s harsh winter and excessive snowfall has left conditions ripe for flooding, according to Hess.
“The slow snow melt has left the ground saturated,” he said. “Any rain we get now will directly create runoffs from streams and creeks, and will raise the water level quicker than any other time of the year.”
Whether a flash flood or steady rising of water levels, personal safety should be everyone’s primary concern.
According to the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, 6 inches of quickly moving water can sweep an adult off his or her feet; just 2 feet of moving water can carry away an SUV or truck.
“Whenever there is flooding, you want to stay out of the water,” Hess said. “Never drive through water and always have an escape route planned.”
When concerned with current weather conditions, Hess encourages county residents to rely on local media.
“We’ve developed strong relationships with the local media to get information out as quickly as possible,” Hess said. “We will also provide any information we pass on to the media to the 2-1-1 system. We encourage residents to call 2-1-1 with questions regarding weather and not tie up 9-1-1 with nonemergency calls.”
In addition to floods, Severe Weather Awareness Week is designed to remind residents of the potential dangers surrounding severe storms and tornadoes.
“We are on the ball here in Knox County when it comes to monthly siren testing,” Hess said. “A statewide drill is scheduled for Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. That’s mostly for those counties that don’t test monthly who need to see that their outdoor warning systems are in working order.”
Knox County tests sirens at noon on the first and third Friday of each month.
“[Sirens] are not for those inside,” Hess said. “They are for those caught outside so they know to seek shelter.”
When sirens are activated, residents will hear three minutes of sirens and 10 minutes of silence. This cycle will be repeated until the warning has expired or canceled.
When a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, Hess said, the dispatch centers at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Mount Vernon Police Department will activate the sirens.
If sirens are heard outside, try to get indoors or seek shelter in a ditch or other low-lying area. If indoors, remember to “duck.” Go down to the lowest level, get under something, cover your head and keep shelter until the storm has passed.
When inside, Hess said it is important to listen to the radio or television for the latest updates on weather conditions.
Hess encourages Knox County residents to be prepared for whatever weather events that may happen.
“Always have a battery-operated radio and plenty of batteries,” Hess said. “For years and years we have been programmed to get the radio and listen to what’s going on.”
In addition to a radio, Hess encourages residents to have flashlights (with plenty of batteries), a 48-hour supply of water and family supply kits. Information about what should be included in those kits are available through the EMA office at 11540 Upper Gilchrist Road.
Thunderstorms are also included in severe weather warnings and can include high winds, hail and lightening.
According to the OCFSWA, three key definitions to know are:
•Watch — A weather watch means the potential or conditions exist for a dangerous weather event.
•Warning — A weather warning means that a dangerous weather event is imminent. Immediate action must be taken to protect life and property.
•Advisory — A weather advisory means a less dangerous weather event is imminent and is less severe than a warning. However, a hazardous weather event is still threatening to occur.
A storm spotter course, offered by the National Weather Service, will take place April 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the basement of the Memorial Building for those interested in becoming a certified storm spotter. To register for the class, contact EMA at 393-6772.