Peggy Kiefer

Grove Sun

The Grand Lake Area continues to grow with new residents from all around the country and the world who may never have experienced weather like that which comes to Northeast Oklahoma. Even those who have lived here their whole life sometimes need reminders on what do to when an emergency situation arrives.

Delaware County Emergency Management Director, Robert Real reminds citizens to use common sense when it comes to strong storms and flooding.

“Turn around, don’t drown is the Emergency Management and Water Resources Board catch phrase,” he said. “Waters will get high, use common sense.”

Monday, three were stranded when they were driving on Lions Ranch Road and discovered that Drowning Creek had risen too high to pass. They drove in, realized their mistake and tried to turn around, but it was too late.

Flooding also occurred along the Illinois River which left many homeless as their homes were under water. Grove, Jay, Zena, Eucha, Lakemont, Kansas, Oaks and Illinois River and many other local fire departments used their swift water rescue training many times this week. High winds caused at least one boat to take on water on Grand Lake and needed to be rescued by Monkey Island and Bernice Fire.

Below are some safety tips to remind the community what to do in hazardous weather conditions:

Flooding

Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association (OFMA) states that flash floods are the number one cause for weather related deaths in the United States. OFMA suggests the following flood safety tips:

Stay informed. Turn on a battery operated radio or television to get the latest emergency information and news about what to do, where to go and places to avoid.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is much safer before the floodwaters come.

Do not drive through floodwaters. Two feet of moving water can sweep your car away. The road may have unseen damage. Most flood related deaths are caused by people driving through storm water.

Turn around, don’t drown. Avoid walking through floodwater. Swiftly moving six inch deep water can sweep you off your feet.

Stay away from power lines and electric wires. The number two killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to a power company.

Be alert for gas leaks. Do not smoke or burn candles or lanterns. Gas is easily ignited. In a flood, be sure your gas is turned off by the gas company.

Look out for animals, especially snakes. Small animals may seek shelter in your home.

Tornadoes

Tornado season is here and seems to be worse than usual. AAA released tornado safety tips for motorists who find themselves in a motor vehicle when a tornado warning is issued.

Leave your vehicle immediately and seek shelter.

Never try to outrun a tornado. Your vehicle will offer no protection from a twister. Plus, it is impossible to know which direction a tornado may decide to go.

Seek shelter indoors. A basement is safest. Closets or small interior rooms are best. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or mattress and stay away from south and west walls and all windows.

If you are caught in the open, with no indoor buildings available to you, find a ditch, ravine or low-lying area and lie flat. Stay away from roadway overpasses.

Do not seek shelter in a mobile home. These structures, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

A “tornado warning” means a twister is developing or is actually on the ground. It is more sever than a “tornado watch,” which means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms, which may or may not spawn tornadoes.

Remember, wet roads mean poor traction. Conditions are most dangerous during the first ten minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris wash away. Driving on wet roads in the rain is just like driving on ice. Take it easy. Allow extra time.

Never use your motor vehicle’s cruise control feature in rainy weather.

According to FEMA, tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.

Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

The following are facts from FEMA about tornadoes:

They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.

They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.

The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.

The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH.

Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.

Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.

Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.

Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.

Lightning

OFMA reports that every year people are killed or injured by lightning strikes in Oklahoma. On average, about 50 bolts of lightning will strike less than a mile from any given person each year, about one million strikes per year across the state.

According to FEMA officials, “If thunder roars, go indoors” because no place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. We want everyone to stay indoors until 30 minutes have passed after they hear the last clap of thunder.”

FEMA provides the following tips for safety during thunder and lightning storms:

Summary of Lightning Safety Tips for Inside the Home

Avoid contact with corded phones

Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.

Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.

Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

The following are guidelines for what you should do if a thunderstorm is likely in your area:

Postpone outdoor activities.

Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.

Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.

Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.

Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.

Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.

Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.

Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.

Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

Avoid the following:

Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.

Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.

Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.

Anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.