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Statewide Tornado Drill

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - If you hear sirens blaring Wednesday morning, there's no need to be alarmed.

The sirens you'll hear at 9:50 a.m. will be part of a statewide tornado drill. You should hear the sirens in your community and 21 WFMJ will be testing the Emergency Alert System at that time as well.

The test is being conducted in conjunction with Ohio's Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week (March 3rd-9th).

Below is information on the difference between a watch and a warning as well as some tips on what you and your family should do in the event a tornado warning is issued for our area.

Watch vs. Warning

In general, a watch tells you that conditions are favorable and there is a good chance the event may happen. When a watch is issued, keep an eye on the sky for changing conditions and make preparations in case a weather warning is issued. Watches are intended to heighten public awareness of the situation. A warning means that a weather event is IMMINENT. Measures should be taken to safeguard life and property IMMEDIATELY.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for development of severe thunderstorms. While not anticipated, tornadoes may occur in the watch area.

Tornado Watch: A Tornado Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, tornadoes and/or severe thunderstorms are occurring and have been spotted or detected by radar. The National Weather Service (NWS) defines a severe thunderstorm as having winds 50 knots (58 mph) or hail greater than 3/4" in diameter (about dime-sized).

Tornado Warning: When a Tornado Warning is issued, tornadoes are occurring and have been spotted or detected by radar. There is IMMINENT DANGER for people in the area warned. The size of the warning area is generally one or two counties and usually lasts less than an hour. Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible on the lowest floor of your building. If you do not have a basement, seek shelter in an interior bathroom or closet. Get under something sturdy. Protect your head.

Tornado Safety Tips

Despite Doppler radar, tornadoes can sometimes occur without any warning, allowing very little time to act. It is important to know the basics of tornado safety. Know the difference between tornado watches and tornado warnings.

- Tune in to one of the following for weather information: radio, 21 WFMJ, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio.

- Take responsibility for your safety and be prepared before a watch or warning is issued. Meet with household members to develop a disaster plan to respond to tornado watches and warnings. Conduct regular tornado drills. When a tornado watch is issued, review your plan don't wait for the watch to become a warning. Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.

- If you are a resident with special needs (such as a physical disability of a language barrier), you should register your name and address with your local emergency management agency, police and fire departments before any natural or man-made disaster. First responders will be able to ensure you have been notified during emergency situations.

- The safest place to be during a tornado is a basement. Once there, try to find something sturdy to crawl under. Getting underneath a workbench or heavy table will protect you from flying debris and/or a collapsed roof. If the building has no basement or cellar, go to a small room (a bathroom or closet) on the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and as close to the center of the structure as possible.

- Be aware of emergency shelter plans in stores, offices and schools that you and your family members frequent. If no specific shelter has been identified, move to the building's lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large rooms and wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.

- If you're outside, in a car or a mobile home, go immediately to the lowest level of a nearby sturdy building. Sturdy buildings are the safest structures to be in when tornadoes threaten. Winds from tornadoes can blow large objects, including cars and mobile homes, hundreds of feet away. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and lift a car or truck, tossing it through the air. Never try to out-drive a tornado. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit.

- If there is no building nearby, lie flat in a low spot. Use your arms and hands to protect your head as tornadoes cause debris to be blown at very high speeds. Do not seek shelter under highway overpasses and bridges-weaker structures could be destroyed from the high wind and debris can blow above you.

- Tornadoes come from severe thunderstorms, which can produce a lot of rain. If you see water rising rapidly or floodwaters moving toward you quickly, move to another location.

Source: Ohio Emergency Management Agency

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