Spring and Summer Severe Weather Safety Information

Huron County is regularly impacted by a number of natural hazards such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, floods, and winter storms. The Huron County EMA provides the following information and protective action recommendations for your safety during these emergency or disaster situations.

Severe Weather Termsmore_vert
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Severe Weather Warning - Issued by the National Weather Service’s (NWS) local offices indicating that a particular weather hazard is either imminent or occurring. A warning indicates the need to take action to protect life and property. Typical warnings include:

  • Tornado Warning
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning
  • Flash Flood/Flood Warning
  • Excessive Heat Warning

Severe Weather Watch - Issued by the NWS, indicating that conditions are favorable for the development of a particular severe weather event. A watch is normally issued for several hours and indicates a need for planning, preparation and an increased awareness of changing weather conditions. Typical watches include:

  • Tornado Watch
  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch
  • Flood Watch

Flash Flood - A flood that can occur very rapidly. Flash floods occur as the result of very heavy rainfall in a short period of time, generally over a relatively small area.

Flood - A condition that occurs when water overflows the natural or artificial confines of a stream or body of water, or accumulates by drainage over low lying areas.

Thunderstorm - In general, a local storm produced by a cumulonimbus cloud, and accompanied by lightning and thunder, usually with strong wind gusts, heavy rain and sometimes hail. A cumulonimbus cloud is a cauliflower-shaped cloud that has a height taller than or equal to its width.

Tornado - A violently rotating column of air that comes in contact with the ground, many times, descending from the base of a severe thunderstorm. Tornadoes are usually funnel-shaped with the narrow end nearest the ground. In Ohio, most tornadoes are obscured by hills, trees and rain.

Tornado Facts and Safety Tipsmore_vert
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Tornado Facts

As the severe weather season approaches, take some time during Severe Weather Safety Awareness Week to make a safety plan for your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Planning ahead will lower the chance of injury or death in the event severe weather strikes.

Tornadoes develop from severe thunderstorms. They are usually preceded by very heavy rain and/or large hail. A thunderstorm accompanied by hail indicates that the storm has large amounts of energy and may be severe. In general, the larger the hailstones, the more potential there is for damaging winds and/or tornadoes.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths have exceeded the width of one mile and 50 miles long. Tornadoes generally move from southwest to northeast, but have also been recorded traveling in any direction. The forward speed of a tornado varies from 30 mph to 70 mph.

Even though Ohio has had tornadoes in November, the peak tornado season for Ohio is generally April through July. Tornadoes usually occur between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., but have been known to occur at any hour.

Tornado Safety Tips

Whether practicing in a tornado drill or sheltering during a warning, the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness encourages Ohioans to DUCK!

  • D - Go DOWN to the lowest level
  • U - Get UNDER something
  • C - COVER your head
  • K - KEEP in shelter until the storm has passed
  • The safest place to be during a tornado is a basement. If the building has no basement or cellar, go to a small room (a bathroom or closet) on the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and as close to the center of the building as possible.
  • Be aware of emergency shelter plans in stores, offices and schools. If no specific shelter has been identified, move to the building's lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large rooms and wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
  • If you're outside, in a car or mobile home, go immediately to the lowest level of a nearby sturdy building. Sturdy buildings are the safest structures to be in when tornadoes threaten. Winds from tornadoes can blow large objects, including cars and mobile homes, hundreds of feet away.
  • If there is no building nearby, lie flat in a low spot. Use your arms and hands to protect your head. It is not safe to seek shelter under highway overpasses and bridges.
  • Take responsibility for your safety and be prepared before a watch or warning is issued. Meet with household members to develop a disaster plan to respond to tornado watches and warnings. Conduct regular tornado drills. When a tornado watch is issued, review your plan – don't wait for the watch to become a warning. Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
  • Despite Doppler radar, tornadoes can sometimes occur without any warning, allowing very little time to act. It is important to know the basics of tornado safety. Know the difference between tornado watches and tornado warnings.

Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts. NOAA broadcasts warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information, 24 hours a day. NOAA Weather Radio is not just for emergencies but is a round-the-clock source of weather reports and information to help prepare for the day ahead.

Broadcasts are found in the public service band at frequency 162.400 (MHz). You can purchase a NOAA weather radio at electronic or department stores.

If a tornado should strike, keep track of the storm by listening to a radio station that broadcasts for the Emergency Alert System. In Huron County, those stations designated as Emergency Alert System stations are WLKR, Norwalk-Milan, 95.3 FM, and WOHF, Bellevue, 92.1 FM.

You should also tune into the Weather Channel or your local cable television news channel.

  • NOAA Weather Radio has available an alerting tool for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments. Some weather radio receivers can be connected to an existing home security system, much the same as a doorbell, smoke detector or other sensor. For additional information, visit: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/special_need.htm.

Thunderstorm/Lightning Facts & Safety Tipsmore_vert
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Summertime is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena - lightning. According to the National Weather Service, during the past 30 years, approximately 67 people in the United States are killed by lightning each year, which is more than the average number of people killed annually by tornadoes or hurricanes.

Lightning Safety Awareness: Education is Key

Few people really understand the dangers of lightning. Many do not act promptly to protect themselves because they don't understand all of the dangers associated with thunderstorms and lightning. People need to become aware of the behavior that can put them at risk of being struck and know what they can do to reduce that risk.

Lightning Discharge: Stay Out of Its Path

During a thunderstorm, each flash of cloud-to-ground lightning is a potential killer. The determining factor on whether a particular flash could be deadly depends on whether a person is in the path of the lightning discharge. In addition to the visible flash that travels through the air, the current associated with the lightning discharge travels along the ground.

An Approaching Thunderstorm: When to Seek Shelter

Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm, which is about the distance one can hear thunder. To be safe, remember: If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek shelter immediately! If the sky looks threatening, take shelter before hearing thunder.

The 30-30 Rule

Use the 30-30 rule where there is good visibility and nothing is obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within six miles and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter.

Things to Avoid While Sheltering Indoors

People should stay away from windows and doors and avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity, which include using telephones (corded and cordless) during storms. Cellular telephones are the safest to use during thunderstorms. Do not shower, bathe or wash dishes during thunderstorms. Water is an electrical conductor; you should avoid contact with plumbing.

Helping a Lightning Strike Victim

If a person is struck by lightning, medical care is usually needed immediately to save the person's life. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns and nerve damage are typical life-threatening injuries when a person is struck. Knowing first aid measures, which include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), can help lightning-strike victims survive. American Red Cross chapters and local fire departments often offer first aid and CPR classes.

Shelter from Thunder and Lightning Storms

Safe Shelter from Storms

A house or other substantial building offers the best protection from lightning. For a shelter to provide adequate protection from lightning, it must contain a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground. These mechanisms may be on the outside of the structure, or contained within the walls of the structure, or a combination of the two. On the outside, lightning can travel along the outer shell of the building or follow metal gutters and downspouts to the ground. Inside, lightning can follow conductors such as electrical wiring, plumbing and telephone lines to the ground.

Unsafe Sheltering

Unless specifically designed to be lightning safe, small structures do little, if anything to protect people from lightning. Many small, open shelters on golf courses, parks and athletic fields are designed to protect people from rain and sun, but not lightning. A shelter that does not contain plumbing or wiring throughout, or some other mechanism for grounding from the roof to the ground is not safe. Small wooden, vinyl or metal sheds offer little or no protection from lightning and should be avoided during thunderstorms.

Stay Safe While Inside

Corded telephone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Lightning can travel long distances on phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas. If you must use a phone during a storm, a cellular phone is safest. Stay away from windows and doors, as these can provide the path for a direct strike. Basements are generally safe places to go during thunderstorms, but avoid contact with concrete walls that may contain metal reinforcing bars. Also, avoid washers and dryers because they have contacts with plumbing and electrical systems and contain an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent.

Protect Your Pets

Outside dog houses are not lightning-safe. Dogs that are chained to trees or wire runners can easily fall victim to lightning strikes. You may want to consider bringing your pets inside the home or garage during thunderstorms.

Protect Personal Property

Lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors WILL NOT protect equipment from a lightning strike. Before a thunderstorm threatens, unplug any unnecessary appliances and electronic equipment from conductors.

For more information on lightning safety and education, visit the National Weather Service Web site at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov, and the Lightning Protection Institute Web site at http://www.lightning.org.

Flood Facts and Safety Tipsmore_vert
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Flooding is Ohio's number one natural disaster occurrence. Floods and flash floods can happen during any season, at any time. In fact, in June of 2006, Huron County was granted federal disaster declarations for severe flooding.

Most communities in the United States can experience some kind of flooding after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms or winter snow thaws. Floods can be slow or fast-rising, but generally develop over a period of days. Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Flash flooding can occur with little or no warning and can reach its peak in only a few minutes.

Emergency Information

Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock an adult person off his or her feet. The best protection during a flood is to leave the area and seek shelter on higher ground.

Flash flood waters move very quickly and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and obliterate bridges. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground.

Just two feet of moving water can float and carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks. You can protect yourself best by being prepared and having time to act.

Before a Flood

Check with your local floodplain administrator to determine if you live in a flood-prone area or visit the FEMA Flood Map Store at http://www.fema.gov/nfip/fmapinfo.shtm to review the flood map for your property online.

Consider installing check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.

  • Plan and practice an evacuation route.
  • Have disaster supplies on hand.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan.
  • Make sure all family members know how to respond in case of a flood.

During a Flood Watch

  • Listen to a radio or television for the latest storm information.
  • Be prepared to evacuate.
  • Fill bathtub, sinks and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
  • Move valuable household possessions to upper floors or to safe grounds if time permits.
If you are instructed by local authorities, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.

During a Flood Warning

Evacuate areas that are subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.

If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way.

NEVER drive through flooded roads or low water crossings. If your vehicle stalls, leave it and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising waters may engulf the vehicle and sweep it away.

If camping, choose camp sites along waterways with care. Remember that storms that are miles away could bring raging water your way.

If indoors, turn on a battery-powered radio or NOAA Weather Radio to get the latest emergency information. If your area is advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Listen to a battery powered radio for instructions. Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts may be blocked.

After a Flood

Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. Listen to a radio or television and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe.

Remember to help those who may require special assistance: infants, young children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Before entering a flood-damaged building, check the foundation for cracks and inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they are adequately supported. Ask a building inspector to check the house before you go inside.

Be alert for gas leaks. Do not strike a match or use open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area ventilated.

Do not use appliances/motors that were flooded unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.

Don’t let children drink or put toys in flood waters. Don’t allow your children to play or swim in flood waters. If your child shows any signs or symptoms of illness after being in flood waters such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, contact your physician as soon as possible.

If a person receives a cut, burn or puncture wound, make sure it does not come in contact with flood waters. Flood water may contain various bacteria, viruses and other infectious organisms that may cause disease. Flood water may also contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems. If you are concerned about an injury, check with your physician to see if a tetanus booster is necessary.


Mold is a likely problem in flooded homes. It is important to remove all water and fix any leaks before cleaning. Clean hard surfaces with a solution of bleach and water; make sure to ventilate the area when using chlorine bleach. Wear a filter mask and gloves to avoid contact with the mold. Let the bleach and water sit for 15 minutes and then dry the area thoroughly. Wet, porous materials, such as carpeting, wallboard, insulation, wallpaper and furniture should be discarded because they remain a source of mold growth.

Use fans and dehumidifiers to air and dry out the home. If possible, open doors and windows.

Food Safety

Food that comes in contact with flood water can also pose a serious health risk. Throw away any product if there is any doubt about its safety.

Throw away home-canned goods if the tops have been exposed to flooding. Food in paper containers, cloth or cardboard packaging that has been exposed to flood water should also be discarded, along with soft drinks and condiments using capped containers.

Store-bought canned goods may be saved if they are disinfected prior to opening. Label the can with a waterproof marker, remove the paper label and wash the can thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Rinse well; after washing and rinsing, disinfect can by soaking it for five minutes in a chlorine solution using one tablespoon of bleach (labeled 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) for each gallon of cool water.

Water Safety

If you have a private well, run cold water for about 30 minutes to allow the well to recharge naturally. Do not save the water. Have the well disinfected and tested before drinking or using for cooking. If you must use tap water, boil it vigorously for at least one minute. If you cannot boil it, add 16 drops of bleach to each gallon of water. Mix thoroughly and allow to stand for 30 minutes. This method should be used only with water that is clean in appearance and free of odors.

Flood Terminology

Flood – A condition that occurs when water overflows the natural or artificial confines of a stream or body of water, or accumulates by drainage over low-lying areas.

General River Flooding – follows heavy rain, snow melt or their combination. While river flooding typically occurs slowly, allowing more time to take protective measures, extreme flash flooding or a breakup of an ice jam along a river can produce more rapid river rises.

Urban and Small Stream Floods – occurs when heavy rain falls, resulting in flooded streets, underpasses or drainage ditches in urban areas, and creeks in rural areas. Not usually life-threatening on its own, but can be, if motorists drive through a flooded roadway or children play near a storm drain or drainage ditch.

Flash Floods – Rapid and life-threatening floods from heavy rains occurring in a short period of time, usually in hilly or mountainous areas, or produced by the failure of a dam.

Flood/Flash Flood Watch – Usually issued for several hours indicating that conditions are favorable for possible flooding or flash flooding.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning – Issued when flooding or flash flooding is imminent or occurring. This indicates a need to take protective measures.

Huron County EMA