SPRING is here at last! The days are getting longer, average high and low temperatures are rising quickly and soon(ish) things will be in full bloom across northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The changing of the seasons is also characterized but an increased risk of thunderstorms. While many thunderstorms are “run of the mill” with some briefly heavy rain and vivid lightning some are “severe”; these storms have a higher likelihood of producing damaging winds, impactful hail and even tornadoes.
This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Ohio, the week we like to remind everyone to be Weather Aware….be informed and have a plan if and when severe weather strikes.
For more information: http://www.weathersafety.ohio.gov/
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A STRONG THUNDERSTORM AND A SEVERE ONE?
While many thunderstorms are dark and scary and loud, only some reach the threshold of being “severe”. It is important to note that ALL thunderstorms are dangerous. Even a “weak” storm can generate a lightning bolt that causes damage to life and property. Somewhat ironically, a thunderstorms is not determined to be “severe” by two of the more impactful aspects of a storm: lightning and rain. It’s wind, hail and the possible presence of a tornado.
Meteorologists warn of a severe thunderstorm and/or a tornado by issuing a Warning. The “official” warnings are generated by meteorologists at the National Weather Service. In our area, The NWS in Cleveland serves Mahoning and Trumbull counties while NWS Pittsburgh serves Columbiana, Lawrence and Mercer counties.
One of the point of confusion among some is the difference between a watch and a warning.
Another way of looking at it:
FLOODING: AN UNDERRATED RISK
Tornadoes get all the buzz, but the #1 most impactful type of weather hazard in the Spring and Summer is rain and flooding. Year after year the weather enterprise preaches “turn around, don’t drown” but invariably we see dozens of clips each year of cars submerged in water. It takes a surprisingly small amount of moving water to carry away even the largest of vehicles.
A friendly reminder that the law requires you to have your headlights on if it is precipitating hard enough that your wipers are in use.
OH, HAIL NO
Hail can be very dangerous. Thankfully in our part of the country very large hail is rare. But hail large enough to cause damage (usually 1″ or larger) can and will occur occasionally.
LET’S TALK TORNADOES
Tornadoes are, thankfully, rare in our region but they are still the type of severe weather that gets all the buzz.
They may be rare but of course they do happen! This map shows all the tornadoes across the region from 1950-2014.
Interesting to note some of the patterns on this map. There has been a lack of tornadoes in southeast Columbiana County, for example.
A breakdown of tornado stats by state. Of course tornadoes are more common in western Ohio than eastern Ohio. Pennsylvania averages somewhat fewer tornadoes, partly owing to the mountainous interior of the state.
It is important for every household to have a plan in case severe weather (and especially) a tornado strikes. Get to the lowest level of your home and (very important!) get away from windows. Flying glass injures or kills many people.
Some other good information from weathersafety.ohio.gov:
All types of weather come with myths and old wive’s tales. All of us grew up thinking certain things because a grandma or uncle told us it was true. Many of these “nuggets” simply are not true, however and some could even put you in grave danger. A few tornado myths:
Another weather myth, one that is decidedly more harmless than tornado myths is “heat lightning”. Heat lightning is not a thing!
GETTING WARNED OF SEVERE WEATHER
One of the great things about living in 2017 is that the majority of the population now has little computers in the pockets. As annoying as some of the, um, habits associated with smartphone use are, they are great tools for gathering weather information and being warned of dangerous weather.
Nearly all weather apps, including the StormTracker 21 weather app, come with the ability to “push” weather warnings to you when they are issued. Additionally, you can sign up for text alerts at wfmj.com to get automatically texted when the NWS issues a warning.
Weather radios are inexpensive, easy to program and a VERY reliable way to receive weather warnings. You can find many great ones online and at many retail stores that sell electronics.
One of the LEAST effective methods of being warned, but one that many people still cling to, is a TORNADO SIREN. There are many, many problems with sirens. It can be argued that they do more harm than good.
WFMJ SEVERE WEATHER POLICY
#1 on the list of job responsibilities of any meteorologist, whether he/she is on TV or not, is the protection of lives and property. We will stop at nothing, including interrupting your favorite show, to help someone be safe. Our general policy when it comes to preempting programming is similar to nearly all television stations across the country. If a Tornado Warning is issued for a part of our viewing area, we are going to be on TV warning about it.
Of course, we won’t just be on TV. Another great thing about living in the digital age is the ability to reach people instantly via social media, streaming video, Facebook Live, etc.
Inevitably if we interrupt programming, some who are not being impacted by the weather and just want to watch their show will complain. We understand it can be frustrating but we are going to do it anyway. If even ONE life is spared by information they saw or heard us give on TV then it’s absolutely worth it.
We’ll be talking more about severe weather safety, tips, statistics, etc all week on 21 News and our social media outlets.
The statewide tornado drill is Wednesday at 9:50am.