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Be ready during tornado season


May 28, 2008
In Southern Indiana, spring is a great time of the year as the weather turns warmer and outdoor activities increase. But spring also brings the possibility of severe and dangerous weather.

Thunderstorms are prevalent during the spring and summer months, and May and June are the months most likely to bring tornadoes.

"Tornado season is upon us," Kent Barrow, Crawford County Emergency Management Agency director, said. "Everyone needs to know the difference between a watch and a warning. And everyone should be aware that we now have seven severe weather sirens in the county. There are two sirens in Marengo, one in Milltown, one in Leavenworth, two in English and one at the high school. These sirens don't sound unless there has been a severe weather warning."

A thunderstorm watch means conditions are favorable for a thunderstorm. A thunderstorm warning is given when a thunderstorm is occurring or about to occur.

A tornado watch is announced when conditions are right to have a tornado. Residents in the area of the watch should maintain a close lookout for changes in the sky and stay tuned to local weather stations. A tornado warning means there is an actual tornado reported or radar indicates one could develop within a few minutes. Seek shelter quickly.

Thunderstorms can produce large hail, flash floods, heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and tornados. They can last only a few minutes, but have the strength and power to cause a great amount of damage.

Tornadoes are violent rotating cylinders of air that can reach speeds in excess of 300 mph, be more than a mile wide and cover up to around 50 miles during their short path of destruction. Tornadoes can cause millions of dollars' worth of damage and rip buildings off their foundations, leaving only debris in their wake. They can appear suddenly and with little warning.

"Every household and business should have an NOAA all-hazards weather radio," Barrow said. "They are inexpensive, and we are still taking orders for them here. Anyone interested in ordering one can contact this office at 1-812-338-4340."

Tornadoes aren't strangers to Crawford County. Marengo was hit by a devastating tornado in 2004 that almost destroyed a whole residential section of the town. Luckily, it claimed only one life. In June, 1990, an F2 tornado hit the county, injuring nine people. On April 3, 1974, an F5 tornado hit the county and injured only one person. And on May 6, 1971, an F1 tornado touched down in the county, but there was no deaths or injuries.

And since 1971, Harrison County has seen more than its share of twisters. On April 27, 1971, an F1 tornado hit the county, injuring two people. Just days later, on May 6, another F1 tornado touched down, killing one person and injuring two. On April 3, 1974, an F5 hit at 1:30 in the afternoon, killing two and injuring 34. At 3:10 the same afternoon, another F5 touched down, but there was no deaths or injuries.

On Jan. 13, 1976, at 2:50 p.m., a small F0 tornado came through the county, but there were no casualties or injuries. On Oct. 1, 1977, an F1 twister came through, killing one and injuring one. There was an F1 on June 7, 1980, an F2 on April 5, 1985, an F0 on July 5, 1987, and an F2 on June 2, 1990, none of which caused any deaths or injuries. But on June 6, 1990, two people were injured when an F1 tornado touched down.

In 1974, on April 3 and 4, there were 148 tornadoes in Indiana. Over 315 people died. Many were never found.

On April 3, that same series of twisters hit Jefferson County, Ind., and at 3:19 p.m., Hanover College was torn apart. The town of Madison lost 11 people and over 300 homes were destroyed; 190 people were injured. About an hour later, the town of Monticello was hit. There were 19 people killed and 362 injured. As many in this area still remember, that was the day that Brandenburg, Ky., was almost wiped off the map, and several people were killed there.

April 11, 1965, was another devastating day in Indiana. At 5:45 p.m., the small towns of Lakeville and Wyatt were hit by a tornado that killed 10 and injured 82. At 6:15 p.m., the twister hit Midway Trailer Court near Goshen, killing 14 and injuring 200. At 6:40, another 19 people were killed and 100 injured near Shipshewana. Just 30 minutes later, at 7:10, the town of Dunlap was hit and the twister took 36 lives and injured 320. Ten minutes later, it hit Lebanan, where 28 people lost their lives and 123 were injured. And just five minutes after that, 90 percent of Russiaville was destroyed, killing 25 and injuring hundreds. Altogether, there were 35 tornadoes in Indiana that day and 271 people were killed.

In 1917, there were a series of tornadoes that killed 249 people. That was the year that New Albany was hit. Over 300 homes were destroyed, 46 people were killed and 110 injured. Twelve of the deaths were children at the Olden Street School.

On Nov. 6, 2005, 25 people were killed and hundreds injured when a twister struck the Evansville area.

So far, in 2008, there have been 1,000-plus tornadoes in the United States, including several tornadoes in January and February, which is usually a quiet time for severe storms. There have been 100 confirmed fatalities, which makes 2008 the deadliest year since 1998.

On Jan. 7, 2008, more than 70 tornadoes were reported in the Midwest. A series of twisters on Jan. 29 killed two in Posey County, Ind., and one person in Clark County. The same day, Speedway, Ind., was also hit. In February, there were 232 tornadoes reported. There have been 294 tornadoes in May alone.

The American Red Cross has a list of guidelines that can improve the chances of surviving a tornado:

•Basements, inner rooms of a house, and storm cellars provide the best protection.

•Stay away from exterior walls, windows and doors. Stay in the center of the room.

•If you are in your car, do NOT try to outrun the tornado because it can switch direction and can cover lots of ground quickly.

•Get out of the vehicle and go to a strong building if possible. If not, lie flat in a ditch or low area and cover your head.

•Do NOT go under overpasses. Wind speeds actually increase under them and can suck you out.

•If you live in a mobile home, get out IMMEDIATELY. Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation.

•Listen to radio or watch TV so you can be alerted about your current situation.

After a tornado:

•Stay out of damaged buildings.

•Help others that might be trapped or injured.

•Listen to radio or TV to find out emergency information and instructions for your area.

•Be aware of possible water, gas or oil leaks.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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