Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

News

March 22, 2013

Old Man Winter doesn’t know, but tornado season’s here

Greensburg — With unseasonably cold weather plaguing Decatur County recently, tornado season is probably the last thing on the minds of most Decatur Countians.

Nevertheless, tornado season is again upon us, and it won’t be long until warmer weather returns to the area. With those warmer temperatures, the yearly storm season will begin churning in full force, with the possibility of tornadoes spinning from thundery, rain-and-lightening-filled skies.

In a late-2011 interview, meteorologist Brian Schoettmer explained that early-through-mid-spring and late fall tend to produce the greatest number of tornadoes in the Ohio Valley region (of which Greensburg is a part).

Peak-season storms in the Ohio Valley, Schoettmer added, tend to be intense, extremely fast moving, sporadic, unpredictable and, frequently, short-lived.

On Thursday afternoon, Ken Brewer, weather executive producer and meteorologist with Indianapolis’ WISH TV 8, added that big swings in temperature lead to a heightened probability of severe weather.

Seasonal transition from cold to warm and warm to cold isn’t the only factor in the higher risk during tornado season, Brewer clarified, but it is certainly an important factor.  

Brewer agreed, too, that extreme temperature swings from one day to the next on any given set of days also increase the risk of a tornado occurring.

Fortunately, he doesn’t anticipate any such extreme swing in the next several days, as the unseasonably cold weather is projected to continue.

“Cold weather,” Brewer said, “makes it more difficult for tornadoes to form.”

As such, although tornado season has technically begun, current conditions are delaying the true start of the season, he added. He agreed, though, that the season won’t be delayed indefinitely.

With that being the case, Decatur Countians should likely begin the annual ritual of making certain they’re prepared for severe weather.

According to Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Rob Duckworth and Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen, the most important facet of severe-weather planning is the creation of a workable plan.

There are multiple warning sirens operated around town by the Greensburg Fire Department, Chasteen reminded, but the ultimate responsibility for effectively acting on those warnings lies with residents. That’s where a workable plan comes into play.

Residents, Chasteen said, should consider multiple contingencies for acting on the warnings. Where are you when the warnings go off and what are you going to go? Where are your kids?

Chasteen advised residents to have an NWS weather box on hand, too, as sirens are designed for outdoors; many residents in their homes won’t hear them.

Duckworth encouraged Decatur Countians to join the Nixle alert system, used by emergency responders nationwide to help keep apprised of severe weather events and other emergencies.

Anyone, Duckworth said, can sign up for Nixle simply by texting their zip code to 888777. Emergency information is texted directly to each user’s phone or other device.

Chasteen suggested that, in addition to text message alerts, residents might also consider signing up for severe weather alerts through local TV and radio stations. The more ways people keeps themselves apprised of severe weather, the better, the chief said.

Chasteen also recommended paying close attention to weather reports on both TV and radio, which typically provide between 24 and 48 hours of advance warning for severe weather.

Duckworth recommended the assembly of “emergency preparedness kits,” with sufficient food and water for up to three days. He stressed, too, that including critical medications in such kits is a must, as is remembering sufficient food and water for pets.

In the event of a tornado, the director advised residents to seek shelter in the innermost area of their homes. Areas such as coat closets and centrally located bathrooms are ideal, he said. He further cautioned people to be careful in deciding when its safe to leave shelter, advising residents to “use their five senses” and to be patient and wait until they’re reasonably certain it’s safe. In those regards, he added, a portable radio and being on the Nixel system can be lifesavers.

He further recommended that residents avoid voice calls during an emergency and use text messaging as much as possible, as texts don’t overload the system like voice calls do.

Last but not least, the director implored residents to “keep sight-seeing to a minimum after a severe weather event,” as touring storm damage with no valid reason to do so “places another severe burden on emergency responders.”

For more information on severe-weather preparation, visit www.in.gov/dhs.

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011

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