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Now is time to prepare

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:50 PM

Spring officially started Tuesday evening, signalling the start of a season in which severe weather can be plentiful.

Local emergency management officials are encouraging residents to educate themselves about recognizing dangerous weather conditions and having safety plans in place should such conditions arrive.

Bill Ommert, director of the Huron County Emergency Management Agency, has provided information on this page as a prelude to "Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week," which starts Sunday and runs through March 31.

A statewide tornado drill will be observed at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday.

In addition to making sure residents are prepared, Ommert also is seeking storm spotters.

Residents interested in learning which weather conditions and cloud formations trigger tornadic activity can attend one of the two free Skywarn Tornado Spotter's Programs: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10 at The Depot, Park Drive, Willard, or 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18 at the Huron County Jobs and Family Services Building, Shady Lane Drive, Norwalk. For more information, call (419) 663-5772 or email director@huroncountyema.com.

While the Firelands area saw significant flooding last June and heavy snowfall at times during the past winter, perhaps the most deadliest threat comes from tornadoes.

In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 80 deaths, more than 1,500 injuries and about $1 billion in damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Texans alone lost an average of $43 million annually to tornado damage during the years 1950 to 1995, according to the National Center for "Atmospheric Research's Extreme Weather Sourcebook."

Tornadoes have struck in every state, often without much warning.

Even though Ohio had tornadoes in November of 2002 and 2003, the peak tornado season for this state is generally April through July, Ommert said.

Tornadoes usually occur between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., but have been known to occur at any hour.

Families and businesses are encouraged to formulate disaster plans before the advent of severe weather, said Judith Kolberg, author of "Organize for Disaster" (Squall Press, 2005).

Kolberg offers the following emergency preparation tips:

Know where to go — Establish the place that offers the most protection from a tornado in your home, school, office and any other locations you frequent. The best spot is an interior room — one that puts the most walls between you and the wind — with no windows on the lowest floor possible. If windows cannot be avoided, be prepared to cover your head with clothing or your hands to protect your face from possible flying glass.  

Create a supply kit — Gather and store first aid provisions and any medication family members regularly need, enough canned or non-perishable food for three days, a non-electric can opener, bottled water, flashlights and safety candles, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries and any other items you deem essential for basic survival.  

Secure your house — Ensure that any damaged trees or tree limbs are promptly removed from the property. If a storm warning or watch is issued ahead of time, make sure that anything that could be turned into a projectile by storm winds — outdoor furniture, trash cans, planters, bikes, etc. — is safely stowed away. Flying debris causes the majority of tornado deaths and injuries. Make sure you have the necessary insurance coverage as well.  

Ensure access to important records — Store in a safe all critical records and irreplaceable family documentation, preferably in a secure and accessible location outside of your home or place of business. Kolberg recommends the Online Safe Deposit Boxes offered by KeepYouSafe.com. Insurance records, deeds, medical history, financial information, birth and marriage certificates and all essential records — even digital copies of family photos and other precious items — as well as business records can be stored and easily and securely accessed via a standard web browser and Internet connection from anywhere.

"The time to prepare for tornados and other emergencies is now, before they happen,” Kolberg said. “Pre-planning for disasters is the best way of ensuring your family’s survival and of avoiding the typical post-storm problems of not having access to basic supplies like water, medicine and food or the records you need to process insurance payments and move on with your life.”

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