Cold temperatures and snowfall may not be the best conditions to remind residents to prepare for severe spring weather, but one county official said it shouldn’t stop them from developing plans.
Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management, said National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is an opportunity for families and businesses to discuss what to do in the event of severe weather, flooding or tornadoes.
The week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday, is an effort involving the National Weather Service and multiple state departments and agencies to prepare Hoosiers for severe weather and flooding.
A state-wide tornado warning test was conducted Tuesday morning to give residents an opportunity to put their plans in action and discuss.
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“It’s an opportunity to talk with your children and family about severe weather and what you’ll do,” Davis said. “It’s also an opportunity for businesses to develop a plan with their employees.”
He said the first step is to understand the difference between a tornado watch and warning. A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in a given area. A warning means a tornado has been seen or indicated by radar and people should take action.
Sometimes warnings come with little time to prepare, he said.
“Sometimes there are only a few minutes before it can hit,” Davis said.
So what do you do in the event of severe weather or a tornado?
Davis said residents should use this week to form a comprehensive plan of how they plan to receive information; the best place to go during the storm; and what they will do after it passes.
The first step is to determine how you will receive notifications about weather events. Residents can find out about watches and warnings through weather alert radios, the National Weather Service, smartphone applications, local media and other methods.
Jackson County residents also can sign up for the Citizen’s Alert mass notification system that sends alerts to cellphones, landlines and email accounts.
“If you have a landline, the system is set up where you will automatically receive a phone call,” he said. Residents can visit the county website at jacksoncounty.in.gov/ to sign up.
The next step is to develop a plan and determine the safest place to go during severe weather.
Generally that’s an interior room without windows on the lowest floor.
“That way you’re protected by glass and flying debris,” Davis said. “Everyone needs to evaluate where their safest spot is.”
Residents also should think about what they will take with them to that spot like a radio, phone, phone charger, water, pets and other supplies, he said.
“We should review these things with our kids and everyone in the house,” Davis said. “It’s a huge awareness.”
If a storm damages property, Davis said the owner needs to call local law enforcement to report it after the storm has left the area.
“First take care of yourself and your family, then report that you have damage,” he said. “We will get notified of that and come to the area and determine what has happened.”
If damage is severe enough, officials with the weather service will be called to the area to determine whether or not a tornado had touched for historical purposes.
“A lot of people think there has been a tornado, but it may have been straight-line winds,” Davis said. “But damage is damage, and it’s unfortunate.”
Mobile homes are different because they are not as solid and heavy as a house and not secured to a traditional foundation.
Davis said those residents need to be more aware of when watches are in effect and when strong wind storms are predicted.
“When a watch is issued, they need to think about whether they need to go to a safer place,” he said. A safer place could be a public building or a relative or friend’s house.
People living in an apartment complex should move to the lowest floor in an interior room without windows, if possible.
“That could be the hallway on the first floor,” he said.
To help residents understand severe weather more and discuss plans, Davis and the National Weather Service from Indianapolis plan to hold a weather spotter class to educate first responders and the public.
The class will show participates how a severe thunderstorms and tornadoes form, what to look for in the sky and other severe weather-related information.
“They will also show what to look for in the sky and the elements that indicate severe weather,” he said. It is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Redeemer Lutheran Church.
There was one known tornado touchdown in Jackson County in 2017 when a storm came through overnight on March 1 south of Brownstown. That tornado destroyed a man’s garage in rural Brownstown.
According to weather service data, Jackson County experienced 19 tornadoes between 1950 and 2017. Those tornadoes led to the deaths of two people and 46 injuries.
The most severe tornado outbreak in Jackson County occurred on June 2, 1990, when three tornadoes touched down in a span of an hour-and-a-half.
An F4 tornado touched down at 7:20 p.m. and an F1 at 7:55 p.m. The third tornado touched down at 8:38 p.m. The National Weather Service estimated $2,775,000 in damages. No one was killed in that storm.
Two other tornadoes caused damage in excess of $1,000,000 in Jackson County. One was on September 26, 1976, when an F3 caused an estimated $2,500,000 in damages. Another recorded on May 8, 1996 caused an estimated $1,300,000 in damages when an F2 touched down.
Since 1950, tornadoes in Jackson County have caused an estimated $8.3 million in damages, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’ve been fortunate for many years not to have a lot of tornadoes here,” he said. “But we cannot forget the situation in Henryville in 2012.”
That storm produced two tornados, one an EF4 that was on the ground for more than 50 miles and leveled both Henryville Elementary School and Henryville Junior/Senior High School and caused catastrophic damage throughout the community.
The event killed one person and the federal government declared it a disaster.
Henryville is in Clark County, about 35 miles south of Jackson County.
Davis said Indiana has on average 21 confirmed tornadoes annually. A record number of tornadoes, 72, were recorded in 2011 in the state.
He added residents should have severe weather on their minds all year long.
“Everyone needs to remember that tornadoes have been recorded in every month on the calendar,” Davis said. “It’s not just any certain time of the year when severe weather and a tornado can happen, it’s all year.”
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The difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning
Tornado watch: Be prepared. Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.
Tornado warning: Take action. A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on Radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
Prepare for a tornado:
Be weather ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you’re at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips.
Sign up for notifications: Know how your community sends warnings. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smart phones to alert residents of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes.
Create a communications plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Check more ideas for your family plan at: ready.gov/make-a-plan
Practice your plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued. Don’t forget pets if time allows.
Prepare Your Home: Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
Help Your Neighbor: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt.
Following a flood
Stay informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions.
Avoid floodwaters: Standing water hides many dangers including toxins and chemicals. There may be debris under the water and the road surface may have been compromised.
If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself. Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.
Avoid disaster areas: Your presence may hamper any rescues.
Heed road closed and cautionary signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them.
Wait for the “All clear”:
Do not enter a flood damaged home or building until you’re given the all clear by authorities. If you choose to enter a flood damaged building, be extremely careful. Water can compromise the structural integrity and its foundation. Make sure the electrical system has been turned off, otherwise contact the power company or a qualified electrician. Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to discuss the damage done to your property.
Contact your family and loved ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word.
Source: National Weather Service
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Jackson County Citizen Alert mass notification system
Sign up for alerts by visiting:
member.everbridge.net/index/892807736721670#/login or log onto jacksoncounty.in.gov and look for the Citizen’s Alert tab.
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Who: National Weather Service, Jackson County Emergency Management
What: Weather Spotter class
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 504 N Walnut St., Seymour
Description: The class is for first responders and the public who want to learn how severe thunderstorms and tornadoes form; what to look for in the sky; and other severe weather-related information.
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Jackson County tornadoes since 1950
1) April 25, 1956;3:55 a.m.;F1;0;0;$250,000
2) April 19, 1963;4:30 p.m.;F2;0;0;$250,000
3) April 19, 1970;9:45 p.m.;F1;0;0;$25,000
4) April 3, 1974;1:35 p.m.;F3;1;21;none
5) Jan. 13, 1976;2:14 p.m.;F1;0;0;$25,000
6) Sept. 26,1976;4:23 p.m.;F3;1;10;$2,500,000
7) May 23, 1978;4:43 p.m.;F1;0;0;$3,000
8) May 25, 1987;4:29 p.m.;F0;0;0;none
9) May 25, 1987;4:37 p.m.;F1;0;0;$250,000
10) June 2, 1990;7:20 p.m.;F4;0;9;$2,500,000
11) June 2, 1990;7:55 p.m.;F1;0;2;$25,000
12) June 2, 1990;8:38 p.m.;F3;0;0;$250,000
13) April 20, 1996;12:05 p.m.;F0;0;0;$150,000
14) May 8, 1996;3:55 p.m.;F2;0;0;$1,300,000
15) May 30, 2004;10:05 p.m.;F0;0;0;$250,000
16) April 2, 2006;8:37 p.m.;F1;0;0;$200,000
17) June 7, 2006;5:50 p.m.;F1;0;4;$400,000
18 April 23, 2011;12:42 a.m.;EF0;0;0;$30,000
19 March 1, 2017;no data;EF0;0;0;no data