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Severe Weather Preparedness

Post Date:03/19/2019 3:17 PM

Wednesday, March 20 is the first day of spring, which means it’s time to prepare for the possibility of severe weather. In addition to participating in the statewide tornado drill beginning at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, the Westerville Division of Fire is encouraging residents to take some time to review tips and make plans to stay safe during weather events:

During a storm, here’s what to do if you are:

  • In a wooded area - Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

  • In an open area - Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.

  • On open water - Get to land and find shelter immediately.

(Find these and other facts from the National Weather Service)

Watch or Warning?

The National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for issuing severe weather watches, warnings and advisories to alert the public when dangerous weather conditions are expected.

  • Watch - potential or conditions exist for a dangerous weather event.

  • Warning - a dangerous weather event is imminent. Immediate action must be taken to protect life and property.

Facts about severe weather conditions:


  • Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.

  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.


  • Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters or in lines. Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.

  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30-minutes to an hour.

  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.

  • About 10-percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe, with possibilities of hail and winds of 58 mph or higher or produces a tornado.


  • High Wind Watch/Warning - A potential of high wind speeds of 40 mph and/or gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph developing that may pose a hazard or is life-threatening.

  • Wind Advisory - A potential of sustained wind speeds of 31-39 mph, or any instantaneous wind gust between 46 mph and 57 mph is expected.


  • Tornadoes may strike quickly, with little or no warning.

  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris is picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.

  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.

  • Peak tornado season in the northern/midwest states is late spring through early summer.

  • Tornadoes may occur in any season and at any time of day.


  • Flooding is caused by spring thawing (snow and frozen grounds melting in the spring), heavy rains, snow melt runoffs, flash floods, and mudflows.

  • Flash floods can bring walls of water from 10 to 20 feet high.

  • A car can be taken away in as little as two feet of water so do not drive into flood waters.

  • Communities particularly at risk include those located in low-lying areas, near water or downstream from a dam.

  • To stay safe during a flood, go to the highest ground or floor possible.

Driving in Fog:

  • Make your vehicle visible to others both ahead of you and behind you by using your low-beam headlights since this means your tail lights will also be on. Use fog lights if you have them.

  • Never use your high-beam lights. Using high beam lights causes glare, making it more difficult for you to see what’s ahead of you on the road.

  • To ensure you are staying in the proper lane, follow the lines on the road with your eyes.

  • In extremely dense fog where visibility is near zero, the best course of action is to first turn on your hazard lights, then simply pull into a safe location such as a parking lot of a business and stop. If there is no parking lot or driveway to pull into, pull your vehicle off to the side of the road as far as possible. Once you come to a stop, turn off all lights except your hazard flashing lights, set the emergency brake, and take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the tail lights are not illuminated so that other drivers don't mistakenly run into you.


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