Storm season in Northeast Ohio: Powerful storm teaches lesson in preparedness

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer

“The sky would get this grayish, purplish tint to it… And that’s when I’d go out to the front porch to watch the storm.”

That’s how Meghan Fiorina recalled storm season growing up in Northeast Ohio. That distinct smell that came with a rainstorm. The lingering feeling after the clouds rolled through. Soggy lawns. Downed branches. And sometimes worse.

Ryan Lang and Meghan Lang Fiorina

Full disclosure: Meghan is my sister, and as I started writing this story I called her to see if she remembered that one storm. The storm that took down one of those two massive trees in our backyard that then came crashing down right on top of our back porch. It was an unstoppable force that took out what we thought was an immovable object, and we watched it happen from the back family room of our home.

We were scared, but more in awe than anything else. As young children we hadn’t seen anything quite like it. Our grandfather, who was with us at the time, had some experience with Ohio storms and how quickly they can escalate, and he kept us safe. That day was an important lesson on taking inclement weather seriously, but also a lesson in preparedness.

Now, as an American Red Cross volunteer, I’m even more aware of just how prepared I should be for myself and for my family once storm season rolls around.

Photo credit: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

First, knowing the difference between a storm watch and a storm warning is key. A watch essentially means that there is a good possibility of a storm near the area the
alert is being broadcast. A warning, however, means that a storm has been spotted, by either radar or storm spotters, and is on the way. In the case of a warning, it’s time to take action to ensure your safety.

With storms often comes the possibility of flooding, especially in low-lying areas or areas near other bodies of water like creeks, rivers and more. Floods are the most frequent and the most costly natural disasters, as there are a number of things that can cause flooding. In terms of warnings, the same standard applies: a watch means the possibility of flooding exists, while a warning means flash flooding is happening nearby and you should proceed with extreme caution.

Power outages are another residual effect of strong storms. Knowing how to navigate through an outage both inside and outside your home, is crucial information. Have a flashlight and extra batteries, extra cell phone chargers that are fully charged, and more. These small steps can come up big in the event your power is out.

Tornadoes are another very real threat in Ohio. While they are less likely to occur in the Buckeye State than in other parts of the country, it is still very important to be prepared in case the threat of a tornado is imminent. The best way to prepare for a tornado is to have a predetermined safe place inside your home, preferably the basement or an interior room with no windows and thick walls.

Again, while they happen less in Ohio (the state typically sees around 19 tornadoes, on average, per year), forecasters with the National Weather Service are actually calling for a busier-than-normal tornado season in Ohio this year.

In the case of any storm or natural disaster event, it is important to have every tool at your disposal to keep you and your family safe. Download the Red Cross Emergency App FREE from your app store today.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer