The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 31, 2013

Tornado season is just getting started

Now is the time to prepare for the worst

Star Beacon

— Spring and summer weather in Ashtabula County is like a found Easter egg — you expect a treat of candy or coins inside, but occasionally Mother Nature deposits a rotten surprise in that colorful shell.

George Sabo, director of the Ashtabula County Emergency Management Agency, says our part of the country is heading into the foothills of tornado activity, which usually peaks in June and July.

“But tornadoes can come up at any time,” Sabo said. “Mother Nature does not play by the rules.”

He said now is the time to prepare an emergency kit, review the terminology and make sure your household members are signed up to receive alerts.

The EMA uses the Code Red system, which allows the director to send an alert of impending danger to all telephone numbers in the system. Sabo said if that if your home has a land line, your number is already in the system and your household will receive a call when a tornado or other potential danger threatens. Cell phone numbers must be plugged in manually; the process is simple and quick. Go online to and click on the Code Red link below the county seal.

Ashtabula County is one of only six entities in the United States where the Federal Emergency Management Agency is testing its new Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS). When fully integrated, the system will push emergency notices to Code Red, social media and Smart Phone’s wireless emergency alert (WEA) whenever the system is activated. Sabo said WEA alerts will even go out to Smart Phones of motorists in the area who are not registered with the emergency notification system.

Sabo said that when it comes to tornadoes, there are two kinds of alerts: a watch and a warning.

“A watch means that conditions are right for them to form and you should be thinking about your plans,” he said. “A warning means that a tornado has been spotted.”

Most people don’t take the time to put together an emergency kit or develop a plan until an emergency knocks at the door. Sabo recommends visiting FEMA’s website for tips on making an emergency plan for your household and putting together an emergency kit.

FEMA’s basic emergency supply kit includes a gallon of water for each person/day; a three-day supply of non-perishable food; battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and a weather radio with alert; flashlight; batteries for the radio and flashlight; first aid kit; whistle (to signal for help); dust mask; moist towlettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation; wrench/pliers to turn off utilities; can opener for canned food; and local maps.

Sabo suggests assembling a packet of important phone numbers, insurance information, medical history, prescriptions, bank accounts and other personal data. Put the packet in a bag on the back of the door you are most likely to use when exiting the house during an emergency; you don’t want to have to try to remember where you put the information when a tornado or fire is threatening your life.

Both Andover and Conneaut experienced tornado damage in 2010, Sabo said. The deadliest tornado to hit this region in recent memory was May 31, 1985, when an F4 twister claimed 12 lives in the Albion/Cranesville, Pa., area.