Schools Really Are The Safest Place In Tornado
May 22, 2013: Van Wert, OH - After a deadly tornado wiped out Moore, Oklahoma, Monday afternoon, counties are turning locally to question their own safety and tornado planning. Van Wert Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy was contacted by a variety of outside media sources for his opinion on local safety as the region heads into tornado season.
"Historically, this area has seen a few EF4 and EF5 tornadoes," reported McCoy. "One was back in 1965 during the Palm Sunday outbreak when a lot of big, violent tornadoes came through the area. Xenia, OH, was hit in 1974 with big tornadoes entering this region." The largest tornado to ever hit this part of the country made its way directly through Van Wert on Nov. 10, 2002. when a half-mile wide F4 tornado went through the county.
McCoy noted that these three incidents are not the norm for the Van Wert area. Northeastern Indiana and Northwestern Ohio usually average at least a dozen tornadoes every year but normally see weaker, less violent tornadoes than what was just seen in Oklahoma this week.
Now that tornado season has begun, people should always be prepared for the chance of the F0 and F1 tornadoes that are usually seen in Northwest Ohio, and while these tornadoes are nothing compared to the higher scale tornadoes they can still be deadly. Story By Lindsay McCoy, Times Bulletin
"In our emergency planning, we look at structure and the safest places to go," noted McCoy. "People need to get out of mobile homes as these are not safe in any tornado. In your home, the center of your house is a good place to be because the weaker tornadoes may rip the roof off and do some damage to outer walls but they do not level a house like we saw in Oklahoma. If there is no basement, the center of the house, bathroom, closet, and under a stairway are the safest places to go."
In the case of Moore, Oklahoma, schools became a main target of the violent tornado, and with a two-mile destruction radius and little notice time there was no escaping the path. The Internet is now swarming with questions as to whether the students should have been released from the school instead of held there as at least seven students were killed when they drowned in the collapsed basement. One school was left with only one remaining wall and dozens of injured children were pulled from the rubble. Local schools now feel the need to look even closer at their own safety procedures.
"Schools are a very safe location, because they have cinder block walls, bricks, and many walls within the structure that make it more sound than a house," said McCoy. "Usually that is the safest place to keep the kids. If severe weather is coming in during dismissal time, you do not want kids walking home on the streets, out on a school bus, or arriving home when parents are at work and be all alone in a tornado event. So many times the safest thing to do is to keep them at the school in the interior rooms and hallways that are designated as a safe location."
With the event in Moore, schools saw complete devastation due to the intense strength that accompanies an F4 of F5 tornado. These are rare situations as only one percent of the tornadoes every year reach this magnitude. Not even the strongest school building or house can withstand this force, so the only safe place would be below ground in such an instance.
Had the kids returned home at regular dismissal time, McCoy believes it could have been an even more deadly situation than at the school as all the homes in the area were completely wiped out as well. Rules change when a tornado reaches this magnitude as a safe place may no longer be safe, but events such as these have only happened three times in the region since 1965. While it rarely happens in the event of such a large tornado, a school is still considered the safest place for children.
Now that tornado season has begun, people should always be prepared for the chance of the F0 and F1 tornadoes that are usually seen in Northwest Ohio, and while these tornadoes are nothing compared to the higher scale tornadoes they can still be deadly.
Story By Lindsay McCoy, Times Bulletin