Spotters train for severe weather alerts
Tornado sirens blared several times throughout Harrison County as a line of severe storms rolled through late last month. But while the clouds looked ominous and the wind and rain were fierce, the only real damage to speak of was an overturned metal shed near Lanesville and a couple of small power outages.
‘We were lucky,’ Harrison County Emergency Management Agency director Greg Reas said. ‘The way that storm developed throughout the day, things could have been much worse.’
More than 40 people attended the last National Weather Service SKYWARN spotter training class in Corydon, held April 4. Ironically, the class was held the day after the aforementioned severe weather came through.
SKYWARN is the NWS program of trained volunteer severe weather spotters. SKYWARN volunteers support their community and government by providing the NWS with timely and ‘ most importantly ‘ accurate severe weather reports. These reports, when integrated with modern NWS technology, are used to inform communities of the proper actions to take as severe weather threatens.
While emergency personnel are considered the best candidates for becoming a storm spotter because they are usually out in the elements, anyone who goes through the free class (which takes about two hours) can be a storm spotter.
Because April, May and June are the three most active months for violent weather, the NWS sets up several spotting classes throughout Indiana and Kentucky during the spring and early summer.
Since the NWS started keeping track of twisters in 1830, the Louisville office has recorded 51 tornadoes in April, 41 in May and 39 in June. There were 98 in the other nine months combined.
And while Jefferson County, Ky., has received the most F4 twisters (207 to 260mph), Harrison County has had the most F5s (261 to 318 mph).
According to data compiled by the National Weather Service, in the past 35 years Harrison County has had 177 bouts of severe weather, resulting in 21 deaths, 41 injuries, more than $75 million in property damage and roughly $700,000 in crop damage.
Being prepared for severe weather or tornadoes means more than listening or watching weather reports on television.
Each family should have a disaster supply kit made up of the following: a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day); food that won’t spoil; one change of clothing and footwear per person; one blanket or sleeping bag per person; a first-aid kit, including prescription medicines; emergency tools, including a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries; an extra set of car keys; an extra credit or debit card for cash; and special items for infant, elderly and disabled family members.
Tornado facts: A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. It must be rotating or it’s not a tornado. Tornadoes may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel. The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph. The strongest tornadoes have rotating winds of more than 250 mph. Opening windows does nothing at all to equalize pressure in a house.
Families should also have two places to meet ‘ such as a neighbor’s house or away from the neighborhood ‘ outside of their home in case of an emergency. They should have frequent drills.
The next storm-spotting class (close to Harrison County) will be held May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Clark County 911 Center in Sellersburg.