Be pre­pared for se­vere storms

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Tues­day af­ter­noon was a great re­minder that sum­mer brings with it the pos­si­bil­ity for se­vere storms. While we en­dured tor­ren­tial down­pours and hail in some parts of the county, Howard County saw a EF-0 tor­nado touch down, up­root­ing trees, down­ing power lines and caus­ing dam­age along its nearly 13-mile path.

Charles County is no stranger to the ef­fects of ex­treme storms. In 2002, a tor­nado cut a swath nearly 70 miles through Calvert and Charles coun­ties, dev­as­tat­ing much of the Town of La Plata and sur­round­ing ar­eas. Reach­ing strengths up to an F4 tor­nado, with winds reach­ing up to 260 mph, the tor­nado shifted across the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and con­tin­ued its de­struc­tion on the Eastern Shore. All told, 860 homes and 194 busi­nesses were dam­aged in the twister’s path.

Just three years ago, in June 2013, a dere­cho — a pow­er­ful storm sys­tem trav­el­ling quickly along a straight path — sped through sev­eral states from Illi­nois through Delaware. In its wake, trees and power lines were felled and many ar­eas re­mained with­out power for days.

But even these two events were not the most tragic the area has seen. In 1926, the La Plata School House — oc­cu­pied by 60 chil­dren and two teach­ers — was lifted from its foun­da­tion, car­ried about 50 feet and thrown into a tree­line. The school broke apart on im­pact, killing 13 chil­dren. News re­ports stated some chil­dren were car­ried 500 feet through the air with one child found in the top of a tree some 300 feet away from the im­pact site. School items were found as far away as Bowie in Prince Ge­orge’s County.

While we hope our mod­ern tech­nol­ogy can help us avoid such tragic events, it never hurts to be pre­pared for se­vere weather.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fers a num­ber of safety tips on its web­site (www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tor­nado/safety.html) for when tor­nado-fuel­ing weather hits the area. Some of those tips in­clude:

• If your home has a base­ment, get down­stairs, avoid win­dows, and get un­der­neath a sturdy sur­face such as a work­bench. Also know where heavy ob­jects are placed on the floor above the base­ment;

• If you do not have a base­ment, get to the low­est floor and climb in a bath­tub, un­der a stair­well or an in­te­rior hall­way; crouch down on the floor, face­down, and cover your head;

• If you live in a mo­bile home, get out and seek shel­ter in a per­ma­nent struc­ture;

• As you would in the event of a house fire, have a plan in place and prac­tice with your fam­ily what to do in the event of a weather emer­gency.

If a tor­nado is spot­ted, the tor­nado sirens in La Plata will be ac­ti­vated, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the Charles County Gov­ern­ment. This is a three-minute blast of the siren, in ad­di­tion to a voice an­nounce­ment at the end of the cy­cle.

The county also asks res­i­dents to sign up for the Cit­i­zen No­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem, which sends out alerts from the county gov­ern­ment and the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. To sign up for the ser­vice, go to www.CharlesCoun­tyMD.gov/CNS.

Be pre­pared for emer­gen­cies and stay safe this sum­mer.

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