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

Red Cross assists residents following summer storm

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 12, 2020- As many of us know, here in Northern Ohio we are prone to intense summer storms. This was the case on Wednesday night as the region was forced to withstand heavy rain and high wind speeds due to the extremely high temperatures we were experiencing.

For many in Northern Ohio, myself included, our power went out due to those harsh conditions outside. Whenever the power goes out, it can be scary and even stressful as we worry about things like the food in our refrigerator. However, now imagine how scary a power outage can be if you need that power to keep the medical equipment that you rely on running.

Puerto Rico Earthquake 2020

That was the case for some residents during the storm. Luckily, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was there to provide support and assistance.

“A power outage is very significant to the person experiencing it. Sometimes it can constitute what Red Cross considers a true humanitarian need, but only in certain circumstances. Our responders are trained to ask certain questions to determine if we can assist financially. These answers may lead us to having a member of disaster health services evaluate a resident,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager, disaster cycle services.

Renee added, “A resident who has medical equipment powered by electricity may or may not qualify depending on the severity of their condition and the frequency of equipment use. Some individuals are considered medically fragile and even despite not needing medical equipment, may not be able to withstand extremes in temperature. Ultimately, our disaster health services volunteers, with their extensive nursing backgrounds, are the best at determining who meets the criteria in these situations.”

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Following the Wednesday night storm, the Red Cross provided storm assistance to 25 individuals, many of which were dependent on medical equipment, and provided over $4,000 in immediate financial assistance.

In addition, the Red Cross assisted 46 residents who suffered from a home fire and provided an additional $9,355 in financial assistance.

For the year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 3,139 adults, 1,677 children and have provided $933,715 in immediate financial assistance.

Puerto Rico Earthquake 2020

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To donate to assist the Red Cross in continuing to help residents in need throughout the region, please visit Any amount donated truly helps.




Storm’s coming – 5 quick tips for responding appropriately during a Thunderstorm

  • th Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • If thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.