Good time to remember to heed those storm warnings

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Consider this your wake-up call ...

Many times those beeping weather alerts on your phone or the TV seem like little more than annoyances that fill your cellphone screen or interrupt "The Bachelor" or ironically "Survivor" or something of like consequence.

If we let it, the crawl across the bottom of the TV screen for weather alerts and that omnipresent "W" in the corner heralding watches and warnings can easily be mistaken for not much more than the National Weather Service playing the boy who cried wolf.

Yes, we know conditions are right for a severe storm. Yes, we know hail the size of pingpong balls is possible. Yes, it seems like every county in Indiana is listed here.

Granted, Indiana only averages two tornadoes per August, but remember, the Hoosier State has had a tornado occur in every month of the year.

But if we all ever needed a dose of reality and a wake-up call to actually remember to heed those warnings, it was Wednesday afternoon.

Ask the people in Kokomo or southeastern Montgomery County.

The tornado outbreak that changed their lives in a matter of minutes wasn't projected by computer models. Weather guessers weren't talking about the storms for days in advance.

Experts say Wednesday's weather pattern typically does not result in a tornado outbreak, which is why most computer models did not predict them.

But arrive they did. In addition to 22 observed tornadoes, there were two funnel cloud reports in Indiana.

Warnings were issued beginning about 2:40 p.m. "Just enough time," one survivor told TV crews.

And because the folks in Howard and Montgomery counties paid attention to the warnings, no significant injuries were reported. That's despite some major structural damage, including the flattening of a Kokomo Starbucks where employees and customers escaped injury by huddling in the bathrooms.

Meanwhile, some 30 homes in neighboring Montgomery County were reportedly impacted by the storm.

Again, no significant injuries were reported.

In Indianapolis, employees at Eli Lilly were sent to the basement, as were many who hunkered down to ride out the storm at Carmel and Zionsville office complexes.

Inconvenient perhaps, but there's nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution.

So there's no better time to review the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning. You know, better safe than sorry.

According to the National Weather Service:

-- A Tornado Watch means be prepared. Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area (generally an entire county). Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.

-- A Tornado Warning means to take action because a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. Imminent danger to life and property is inherent in a warning.

Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement watching the storm.

Go back and look at those photos and videos from the Kokomo destruction Wednesday. That Starbucks was flattened. Flattened!

There's little doubt that paying proper attention to the warnings issued saved untold lives.

So do we really need a better example?

Don't throw caution to the wind. Heed the warnings. Pay attention when the tornado siren sounds.

Remember, you've been warned.