Tornado siren tests this week

Monday, March 5, 2007
A Coatesville man was injured when his truck hit a tree on CR 425 East near CR 1000 South at 11:27 p.m. Friday. Deputy Dwight Simmons reported that Richard M. Leisure, 35, 5540 S. CR 1000 East, Coatesville, was driving north when he lost control of his 1995 Chevrolet. The truck hit a large tree. The driver was trapped in the truck and had to be extricated by Cloverdale Township firefighters. He was taken via Operation Life ambulance to Putnam County Hospital for treatment of a broken leg. Damage was estimated at $5,000-$10,000. Also assisting at the scene were Reserve Deputy Rick Cooper and Cloverdale Officer Nate Clary.

Putnam County will take part in a statewide tornado drill this week as meteorologists prepare for the return of severe weather season.

Putnam County EMA Director Kim Hyten said Putnam County will be part of two drills on Wednesday, one in the morning between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. and one in the evening between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. He also said the sirens will be tested weekly, beginning Friday and continuing throughout the spring and summer seasons.

During the drill on Wednesday, which is part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, county officials will be making sure all 15 of the county's tornado sirens are in working order, Hyten said.

Putnam County is no stranger to tornadoes with the most recent one striking in the Bainbridge area in 2003.

The funnel dropped down on several properties in northern Putnam County, destroying a few barns and damaging several homes, but there were no injuries.

Meteorologists who surveyed the damage ranked the tornado as an F-1 on the Fujita scale, with estimated winds of 73-112 mph.

According to weather records at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, the strongest tornado to strike Putnam County was an F-3 which tore through the area on Nov. 22, 1992. Winds in that storm were estimated at 158-206 mph.

Records show Putnam County has been visited by 16 tornadoes from the period of 1950-2003.

One person died in a tornado that struck the county on June 2, 1990 and 10 people were injured in the 16 tornadoes combined.

As severe weather season returns this year, changes in the way storms are rated have been put in place.

Prior to this year, tornadoes were ranked based on the damage they caused. The weakest variety were categorized as F-0 with estimated winds of 40-72 mph, followed by F-1 (73-112 mph), F-2 (113-157 mph), F-3 (158-207 mph), F-4 (208-260 mph), and the strongest F-5, with estimated winds of more than 300 mph.

But after the Oklahoma City tornado in May 2003, meteorologists decided the F-scale tended to overestimate wind speeds and was too broad in categorizing damage to structures. Last month, the Enhanced Fujita scale, or EF-scale, was unveiled and has become the new standard for rating tornadoes.

The new scale is as follows:

-- EF-0, winds of 65-85 mph,

-- EF-1, winds of 86-110 mph,

-- EF-2, winds of 111-135 mph,

-- EF-3, winds of 136-165 mph,

-- EF-4, winds of 166-200 mph,

-- EF-5, winds of more than 200 mph.

Something else new this year is a law that would require weather radios for residents of manufactured homes given the disaster that killed 20 people near Evansville in November 2005.

House Bill 1033 was approved and sent to the Senate last week where it was referred to the committee on commerce, public policy and interstate cooperation.

According to a summary of the bill, weather radios would be required equipment in manufactured homes that are installed in mobile home communities.

Additionally, mobile home operators would be encouraged to provide a written reminder to the manufactured home owners in the mobile home community to replace the batteries in their weather radios and smoke detectors.

Available wherever electronics are sold, weather radios are small devices used to warn residents when severe weather is expected or is observed in a given area. Newer radios can be calibrated to give warnings for specific counties in a system called SAME, or specific alert message encoding.

The law specifies that the radios should be permanently affixed in a prominent location inside the mobile home and that it be equipped with tone alarm activation, specific alert message encoding (SAME) and public alert standard certification.

The weather bureau is reminding the public of tips to surviving a tornado. They are as follows:

  • In homes or small buildings -- go to the basement or interior hallway or bathroom. Wrap yourself in a blanket or overcoat to protect yourself from flying debris.

  • In schools, factories, hospitals or shopping centers -- go to the interior rooms or halls on the lowest level. Stay away from large open spaces such as warehouses or auditoriums.

  • In cars or mobile homes -- get out them immediately and go to a secure building or shelter.

  • Outside in the open -- go to a ditch or depression and lie flat on the ground, using your hands to cover your head.

    An added danger of any thunderstorm is lightning.

    According to the weather bureau, lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes. Officials warn that if you can hear thunder, you can be hit by lightning which can strike as far as 10 miles from the nearest rain.

    If you are hit by lightning, you have a 10 percent chance of dying and a 70 percent chance of suffering permanent disabilities, weather officials say. If you are caught out in a storm, crouch down to make yourself the lowest point and stay away from trees and other tall objects.

    Also stay away from metal objects, such as a car, and avoid water and other people. Lightning has struck whole groups of people at one time.

    More information about tornadoes and severe weather safety is available on the National Weather Service website at

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