Hancock County is vulnerable to a variety of severe weather. Heavy rain, flooding, thunderstorms, tornadoes and winter storms are all examples of severe weather conditions that may occur in Hancock County .
The fastest, most accurate and reliable means of receiving severe weather information is through a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio with a “tone alert” feature and battery backup. Weather radios may be purchased at local electronics stores.
NOAA Weather Radio is operated directly from the National Weather Service office in Indianapolis, Indiana which provides coverage for Hancock County. The weather radio “tone alert” is activated when weather watches and warnings are issued. Newer models are capable of warning you only if severe weather is expected to reach Hancock County . This feature is called Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.). Ask your local electronics retailer for help programming your weather radio before you leave the store.
Tornadoes are natures most violent storms and can leave an area devastated in minutes. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, striking the ground with winds of up to 300 miles per hour. Many persons have described the sound of an approaching tornado as resembling a train. Tornadoes can strike at any time of the day and during any season of the year. In Indiana , tornadoes occur most frequently in March, April, May and June.
1. Know the terms used to describe tornado threats and severe weather:
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH means that the current atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms include torrential rainfall, damaging winds, dangerous lightning and hail. Severe thunderstorms can also spawn tornadoes. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or local commercial television or radio stations for current information and possible warnings.
A TORNADO WATCH means that the current atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or local commercial television or radio stations for current information and possible warnings.
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm is actually occurring within the jurisdiction for which the warning is being issued. Those persons outside should seek shelter immediately and tune to NOAA Weather Radio or local commercial television or radio stations for specific information concerning the storm.
A TORNADO WARNING means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by National Weather Service radar. This is an extremely dangerous situation and you should take shelter immediately.
2. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with "tone alert" and battery backup.
3. Develop an Emergency Plan.
4. Maintain a Disaster Supply Kit.
SEVERE WEATHER PREPAREDNESS
Be sure everyone in your household knows in advance where to go and what to do in the event that a tornado warning is issued for Hancock County .
WHAT TO DO WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED
- When a tornado has been sighted and/or a tornado warning has been issued take shelter immediately. Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Protect your head from falling objects or flying debris. Again, wherever you are take cover immediately!
- In a house or small building, go the basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement go to an interior portion of the structure on the lowest level (closets, interior hallways, etc.) Get under something heavy and stay there until the danger has passed.
- In a school, nursing home, hospital, factory or shopping center go to the predesignated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually safest. Stay away from windows and open spaces.
- In a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to a more substantial structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch ravine or culvert with hands shielding your head. Do not attempt to flee from a tornado in a car or other vehicle.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A TORNADO
- Use great caution when entering a building damaged from high winds. When entering or cleaning a tornado-damaged building, be sure that walls, ceiling and roof are in place and that structure rests firmly on the foundation.
- Beware of broken glass and downed utility lines.
- Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help immediately.
Lightning is a serious hazard during thunderstorms. Take these special precautions if you are threatened by lightning:
- When a thunderstorm threatens, get inside a home, large building or vehicle.
- Inside a building, avoid using a telephone, except for emergencies.
If outside with no time to reach a safe building or automobile, follow these rules:
- Do not stand underneath a natural lightning rod such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
- Avoid being above the surrounding landscape: as you would do if you were standing on a hilltop, in an open field, or on the river in a boat.
- Get out of and away from open water.
- Get way from tractors and metal farm equipment.
- Get off of and away from motorcycles, bicycles and golf carts. Put down golf clubs.
FLOODS AND FLASH FLOODS
As little as six inches of fast moving water can knock you off your feet and a depth of two feet will float your car! Never try to walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Stop, turn around and go another way.
Regardless of how a flood or flash flood occurs the plan for staying safe is simple: head for higher ground and stay out of flood waters.
FLOOD – occurs in known floodplains when prolonged rainfall or intense rainfall over a short period of time causes a river or stream to overflow.
FLASH FLOOD – occurs within a few minutes or up to6 hours after a rain event or after a sudden release of water due to a dam or levee failure or the release of an ice or debris dam.
HOW TO PREPARE
Learn about the flood and flash flood history and risk where you live.
Develop a Family Disaster Plan Include plans for evacuation for floods with some advanced warning and flash floods with little or no warning.
Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit.
What to Listen For:
Flash Flood or Flood Watch – Flash Flooding or Flooding is possible within the watch area. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or local commercial television or radio stations for current information and possible warnings.
Flash Flood or Flood Warning – Flash Flooding or Flooding has been reported or is imminent in the warning area. Take all necessary precautions at once. Contact your insurance agent (most homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding)
WINTER STORM PREPAREDNESS
Heavy snowfall, ice and extreme cold can quickly immobilize an entire region. The result can range from isolation due to power outages and blocked roads to the havoc caused by improperly equipped vehicles trying to maneuver on ice and snow covered roads. Your family should be prepared to protect themselves from the many hazards of winter weather – blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE WINTER STORMS OCCUR
Know the terms used to forecast winter weather conditions:
- A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when enough ice and snow are expected to hinder travel but the anticipated conditions are not serious enough to require warnings.
- Freezing Rain is forecast when expected rain is likely to freeze when it strikes the ground creating a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
- Sleet consists of small particles of ice mixed with rain. Sleet accumulation causes roads to freeze over or become slippery.
- A Winter Storm Watch means that severe winter weather is possible. A Winter Storm Warning means that heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain is expected.
- A Blizzard Warning means that heavy snow and winds of 35 miles per hour or more are expected. A Severe Blizzard Warning means that very heavy snow is expected with winds over 45 miles per hour and temperatures below 10 degrees. Visibility can be so poor that you will not be able to see for more than a few yards.
Be prepared before a winter storm occurs:
- Develop an Emergency Plan
- Maintain a Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Make sure that you have sufficient heating fuel; regular supplies may be curtailed by storm conditions.
- Have emergency heating equipment (a kerosene heater, a gas fireplace or wood burning stove or fireplace) and fuel available so you can keep at least one room of your house warm enough to be livable. If your furnace is controlled by a thermostat and your electricity is interrupted by a storm, you will need emergency heat.
- If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry seasoned firewood.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure your family knows how to use them.
- Keep your car winterized and carry a winter car kit. A winter car kit includes: a high quality windshield scraper, flashlight, tow chain or rope, shovel, tire chains, a blanket, a bag of sand or salt and emergency flares.
WHAT DO TO DURING A WINTER STORM
- Listen to the radio or television for updates on the weather condition. With early warning you may avoid being caught in a storm or be better prepared.
- Dress for the season, many layers of thin clothing are warmer than single layers or thick clothing.
- Over-exertion can bring on a heart attack, which is a major cause of death during and after winter storms. If shoveling snow isn’t critical, don’t do it. If you must shovel snow, don’t over exert yourself.
If you are isolated at home:
- Use heating fuel sparingly. Conserve fuel by keeping your house cooler than usual or by temporarily "closing off" heat to unoccupied rooms.
- Whenever fuel heating devices are used (such as kerosene heaters) maintain adequate ventilation to avoid buildup of potentially toxic fumes. Be sure to use only the proper fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow operating instructions.
If a blizzard traps you in your car:
- Pull off the highway; stay calm and remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you.
- Set your directional lights to "flashing" and hang a cloth or flag from the radio antenna or window.
- If you run the engine to keep warm, create ventilation by slightly opening a window. This will protect passengers from carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
- Be careful not to use up battery power. Balance electrical energy needs- the use of lights, heat and radio-with supply.
Any and all heating systems can be dangerous or fatal if not used and or maintained properly.
All fueled heaters must be vented properly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have all chimneys and vents inspected by a professional before use.
- Keep all combustible materials away from portable and space heaters.
- Keep all heaters a safe distance from flammable objects, walls, furniture etc.
- Never plug a heater into an extension cord.
- Always use appropriate capacity outlets.
- Turn off space heaters whenever room is unattended, unoccupied or before going to bed.
- Use proper fuel grade for heater.
- Never use gasoline for any heater not approved for gasoline.
- Refuel outdoors and only when equipment has cooled.
- Fuel burning equipment must be vented to the outside.
- Venting must be kept clear, unobstructed properly sealed.
- Never install non-vented gas-heaters in living areas.
- Carbon monoxide can build up in any small, enclosed space.
- Use only on an adequately protected floor.
- At least 3 feet away from walls and combustible surfaces.
- Use only dry, seasoned wood.
- Do not use flammable liquids to start fires.
- Have chimney inspected by professional annually.
- Use fire screen.
- Burn only seasoned wood.