Be prepared for severe storms
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.