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Copyright 2001 .

Ottawa County EMA
Fred Petersen - Director

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Go Directly to: Winter Storms, Extreme Cold, Tornado, Flood

Weather WATCH: Severe Weather is possible. Listen to local radio and television or NOAA Weather Radio for additional information. Watches are intended to heighten public awareness.

Weather WARNING: Severe weather is occurring or will occur soon. Be prepared to take action. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.



At home, work and school, have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio.
  • Extra food and water, manual can opener.
  • First aid supplies and extra medicine
  • Emergency heating source (fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.)
  • Medicines
  • Baby items such as formula and diapers

In cars and trucks, have available:

  • A winter storm survival kit; blankets/sleeping bags; flashlight with extra batteries; first-aid kit; knife, high calorie, non-perishable food; extra clothing; a large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes; a smaller can and water; matches and candles to melt snow for drinking water; shovel; windshield scraper; tool kit; tow rope; booster cables; water container; compass and road maps.

When caught in a winter storm:

At home or in a building:

  • Stay inside.
  • When using an alternative heat source, use fire safeguards and properly ventilate.

If no heat:

  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • Stuff towels or rags into cracks under doors.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.

If in a vehicle:

  • Stay in your vehicle unless shelter can be seen just yards away. Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Keep a window cracked to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers: Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door; Turn on dome light at night when running the engine; Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.

If outside:

  • Find shelter.
  • If no shelter is available, prepare a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection.
  • Try to stay dry.
  • Cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • If possible, build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
  • Do not eat snow. Melt it into water.


Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops. Warning signs are: uncontrollable shivering, loss of memory, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, seek help immediately!

Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes, damaging the tissue. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately!

If unable to get medical help:

  • Warm the person slowly.
  • Warm the body core first. Do not warm extremities first as this drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.
  • Get the person into dry clothing and wrapped in a warm blanket, covering the head and neck.
  • Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm soup is best.

To prevent hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Stay inside during extreme cold spells or heavy snowstorms.
  • Avoid overexertion – the strain from the cold and hard labor may lead to a heart attack and sweating can lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • If you must go out, dress appropriately. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers.

Other clothing tips:

  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Wear a hat. Over half of your body heat loss can be from your head.
  • Cover your mouth (using a scarf, etc.) to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist are better than gloves for protecting the hands.


Tornado Facts:

  • A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.
  • The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 miles per hour or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
  • The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour, but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 miles per hour.
  • Tornadoes can occur throughout the year, however, the peak season in Ohio is April thru July.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 2:00PM and 10:00PM, but have been known to occur at any hour – day or night.
  • Tornadoes can be classified into one of three types:

Weak Tornadoes (F0/F1) – account for 70% of all tornadoes; cause less than 5% of all tornado deaths; lifetime is usually 1 to 10 (+) minutes; wind speeds are less than 113 mph.

Strong Tornadoes (F2/F3) - account for 29% of all tornadoes; cause nearly 30% of all tornado deaths; may last 20 minutes or longer; wind speeds are 113 to 206 mph.

Violent Tornadoes (F4/F5) – account for only 1% of all tornadoes; cause 70% of all tornado deaths; may last for one hour or more; wind speeds are greater than 206 mph.

  • Ohio averages 15 tornadoes and five tornado-related fatalities per year.
  • National Weather Service offices in Wilmington ( and Cleveland (, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (; Charleston, West Virginia ( and North Webster, Indiana provide warnings for Ohio.
  • The weather service uses Doppler weather radar to sense the air movement within thunderstorms. Early detection of increasing rotation aloft within a thunderstorm can allow lifesaving warnings before the tornado forms.

Tornado Safety Tips:

  • Tornadoes can occur without warning, giving you very little time to act. It is important to know the basics of tornado safety so that you can survive, should a tornado strike.
  • Tune in to one of the following for weather information: local radio or television, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, Ohio News Network or the Weather Channel.
  • Don’t wait until the warning alarms sound to begin planning how to respond. Take responsibility for your safety and plan now.
  • Have a plan. Meet with household members to discuss how to respond to a tornado warning. Hold tornado drills. Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
  • When a tornado watch is issued, review your plan. Don’t wait for a warning to be issued.
  • The safest place to be during a tornado is underground. If you have no basement or cellar, go to a small room (a bathroom or closet) in the middle of the building on the lowest floor possible. Once there, try to find something sturdy you can crawl under. Getting underneath a work bench or heavy table will protect you from flying debris and/or a collapsed roof.
  • Be aware of emergency shelter plans in buildings and schools where you and your family spend time. If a specific shelter does not exist, move to the building’s lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large round rooms and wide, free-span roofs.
  • Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to damage from high winds. Residents – even those who live in mobile homes with tie-downs – should seek safe shelter when a tornado threatens. Go to a prearranged shelter when the weather turns bad. If you live in a mobile home park, talk to management about the availability of a nearby shelter. If no shelter is available, go outside and lie down in a ditch or depression. Cover your neck and head with your hands and wait for the storm to pass. While waiting, be alert for the flash floods that may accompany tornadoes.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado. A tornado can toss cars and even large trucks around like toys. If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued on the radio or by siren, get out of your vehicle and find safe shelter. If no shelter is around, lie down in a low area using your hands to cover the back of your head and neck. Be sure to stay alert for flooding.


Three types of flooding occur in Ohio:

General River Flooding occurs after long-term heavy rain, snow melt or a combination of the two. It usually occurs slowly, allowing more time to move people and property to safety.

Flash Flooding is always life threatening and occurs very quickly. Flash flooding typically occurs in hilly or mountainous areas, but can occur anywhere when heavy rain falls in a short amount of time. Flash flooding can also be caused by a dam failure.

Urban and Small Stream Flooding is a more subtle flood threat. It can occur when heavy rain falls in an urban or rural area, resulting in flooding streets, underpasses or drainage ditches in an urban area, or creeks in rural areas. It is not normally a threat unless motorists drive through the flooded road or children play in flooded drainage ditches. Small stream flooding can be hazardous if persons get too close to a swollen creek.

Before the flood:

  • Learn the safest route to high, safe ground in case you must evacuate your home or place of business.
  • Buy flood insurance. Most homeowner policies do not cover flood damage. For more information on flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program, visit their web site at
  • Make an itemized list of personal property. Photographs of your home, inside and out, are helpful.
  • Move valuable papers, furniture, clothing and possessions to upper floors or higher elevations.
  • Sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building. When wet, the bags may create added pressure on the foundation.

During the flood:

  • Be prepared to evacuate before the water level reaches your property.
  • Try to avoid flooded areas and do not attempt to walk through floodwaters that are more than knee deep or swiftly moving.
  • Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area and you are standing on a piece of wood while wearing rubber gloves and rubber soled boots or shoes.
  • Do not drive where the water is over the road. Even though the water might look only inches deep, it could be much deeper, the road may be washed out and the current might be strong. Cars, trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles are susceptible to being swept away by high water. If you are in a vehicle and water starts rising, get out and move to higher ground.

After the flood:

  • Prior to entering a building, check for structural damage. Upon entering the building, do not use open flame as a source of light since gas may still be trapped inside; a battery-operated flashlight is ideal. Watch for electrical shorts or live wires before making certain that the main power switch is turned off. Have your well/cistern tested to insure your water supply is safe. Watch for animals that may have taken shelter in your home during the flood.
  • If your home, apartment or business has suffered flood damage, immediately call the agent or broker who handles your flood insurance policy.

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