When the remnants of Superstorm Sandy hit Ohio Oct. 29, it hit with a vengeance. It brought torrential winds, flooding, snow and ice. It downed trees and power lines, leaving more than 250,000 Ohioans without power for days. Superstorm Sandy showed Ohio, the East Coast, and other states just how unpredictable weather can be. Superstorm Sandy, with all of its devastating destruction, re-emphasizes the importance of severe weather safety and preparedness.
Sunday, Nov. 11 kicked off Ohio’s Winter Safety Awareness Week. Gov.John R. Kasich’s resolution states: “Winter Safety Awareness Week creates the opportunity for Ohioans to prepare their homes, schools, businesses and organizations for the upcoming months of potential severe winter weather and conditions associated with it, such as snow and ice storms, flooding from rapid thaws, (and) extended power outages caused by winter storms.”
As part of a coordinated effort with the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA), Gov. Kasich encouraged Ohioans to update their safety plans, replenish their disaster supply kits to sustain all household members for several days, and prepare themselves and their property for winter-related incidents.
“Superstorm Sandy reinforced to us all the importance of severe weather and emergency preparedness,” said Nancy Dragani, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. “If you’re using a generator as an alternative power source, make sure you read the safety directions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and ensure they’re working properly. Conduct fire drills to ensure that everyone knows two ways out of any room.”
To help prepare for the upcoming winter months, OCSWA recommends the following:
• Prepare your home for winter. Cut and remove low-hanging and dead tree branches. Ice, snow and strong winds can cause tree limbs to break and fall. Have your gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly if gutters are clogged with debris. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces and fireplaces maintenance checked or serviced before using. If using a portable generator, read instructions thoroughly to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning. Review your homeowner’s insurance policy; consider your need for flood insurance.
• Prepare winter disaster kits for the home and vehicle. Refresh stored nonperishable foods and bottled water. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and radios. Winter emergency kits should include warm clothing, blankets, flashlights, new batteries, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain every family member for several days. Have stored food, bottled water and supplies for your pets, as well.
• Invest in a NOAA Public Alert/Weather Radio. Every home, school and business should have a tone-alert weather radio with a battery back-up. Weather and public alert radios are programmed to automatically sound an alert during public safety and severe weather events. Click on www.weather.gov/nwr/ for additional information.
• Update your disaster preparedness plans. Every home, school, business and organization should have written plans for the different types of disasters that can occur. Review the plans with the entire family or staff. Everyone should know what to do in the event of a snow or ice storm, a prolonged power outage, a flood or fire. Post contact information for your local emergency management agency. Prepare and practice drills that require sheltering in place and evacuation. Update your emergency contact list and establish a meeting place outside of the home, school or business, where others will know where to find or meet you.
Winter Severe/Hazardous Weather Terms
The National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for issuing winter storm Watches, Warnings and Advisories to alert the public when dangerous winter conditions are expected.
Freezing Rain- Rain that freezes upon contact with a cold surface. Freezing rain creates a glaze of ice.
Sleet - Solid grains of ice formed from rain that freezes before reaching the ground. These pellets of ice tend to bounce upon contact and may accumulate enough to cover the ground, even to a depth of several inches.
Snow Squall - An intense fall of accumulating snow, reducing visibility significantly and often accompanied by increased winds.
Advisories/ Watches / Warnings
Advisory - A less severe winter weather event that is imminent. Watch - The potential exists for a significant or dangerous weather event. Warning - A significant or dangerous weather event that is imminent.
Hazardous Weather Outlook - The Hazardous Weather Outlook usually provides three to seven-day advance notice of a hazardous winter weather event which has the potential to threaten life or property.
Short Term Forecast - Describes the weather in the local area and includes a short-range forecast (usually not more than six hours). This product will be updated more frequently when it is used during active weather. This product is also sometimes referred to as a "NOWcast."
Special Weather Statement - Designed to alert the public to a short term hazardous weather threat within twelve hours of occurrence, which may require a heightened level of awareness or action.
Snow intensity versus visibility
Light: Greater than 1/2 statue mile
Moderate: 1/4 to 1/2 statue mile
Heavy: Less than 1/4 statue mile
Highlight hazardous weather conditions which could lead to life-threatening situations if caution is not exercised. Advisories are usually issued 6-18 hours prior to the weather event.
Dense Fog Advisory - Issued when widespread fog will reduce visibility to one-fourth mile or less.
Freezing Rain Advisory - Issued for freezing rain or freezing drizzle: any accretion or accumulation up to one-fourth inch.
Lake Effect Snow Advisory - Issued when 4-5 inches of widespread or localized lake effect snow is expected to fall over the snow belt of Northeast Ohio in 12 hours or less.
Wind Advisory - Issued when sustained winds are expected to be 31 - 39 mph for at least an hour, or any wind gust between 46 and 57 mph.
Wind Chill Advisory - Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be 10-24 degrees below zero except 20-29 degrees below zero in extreme northwest Ohio.
Winter Weather Advisory - Issued for any combination of accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle or sleet that will cause significant inconvenience and moderately dangerous conditions. An advisory is also issued when visibilities from a combination of snow and blowing snow will be reduced to ¼ mile or less. An advisory is issued when snow is expected to accumulate 3-5 inches in 12 hours in Northern Ohio and 2-3 inches in 12 hours in Southern Ohio.
A Watch means the potential exists for a significant/dangerous weather event. A Watch is usually issued between 12 and 48 hours before a weather event.
Blizzard Watch - Alerts the public to the potential for blizzard conditions. Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of blizzard conditions.
High Wind Watch - Issued when there is the potential for dangerous winds.
Lake Effect Snow Watch - Issued when there is a potential for a significant lake effect snow event.
Wind Chill Watch - Issued when there is a potential for dangerous wind chill values.
Winter Storm Watch - Alerts the public to the potential for heavy snow, significant icing or a combination of these events. Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a winter storm.
A Warning means a significant or dangerous weather event is imminent. Warnings are usually issued 6-18 hours prior to the weather event.
Blizzard Warning - Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities below ¼ mile. These conditions usually persist for at least three hours.
High Wind Warning - Issued for when sustained winds will be 40 mph or greater for at least one hour, or any gust of wind expected to be 58 mph or greater.
Ice Storm Warning - Issued if the event will be entirely ice accrual. Criteria: ice accumulation of ¼ inch or more from freezing rain and damage expected.
Lake Effect Snow Warning - Issued for the snow-belt of Northeast Ohio when lake effect snow is expected to accumulate to 6 inches or more in 12 hours or less, or 8 inches of snow in 24 hours or less.
Wind Chill Warning - Issued for dangerous, life-threatening wind chills less than or equal to -25 degrees Fahrenheit except -30 degrees Fahrenheit in extreme northwest Ohio.
Winter Storm Warning - A Winter Storm Warning is issued for heavy snow or when a combination of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, heavy sleet or blowing and drifting snow is expected to occur. The heavy snow criterion for a warning follows below. Criteria: Approximately 6 inches of snow is expected in 12 hours or less across Northern and Central Ohio, and 4 inches in 12 hours across Southern Ohio; or approximately 8 inches or more of snow in 24 hours or less across northern and central Ohio and 6 inches or more of snow in 24 hours across Southern Ohio.
For additional information on winter weather safety and severe weather preparedness, visit OCSWA’s site at www.weathersafety.ohio.gov or the local EMA's site at www.huroncountyema.com. The EMA office's phone number is at (419) 663-5772.