Remaining safe in the summer months to come

BELMONT COUNTY — Although summer months bring beautiful days, blooming flowers, abundant sunshine and outdoor activities, they may also usher in periods of unpredictable weather, including harsh thunderstorms, flash flooding and destructive tornadoes.

Weather can be unpredictable at times and change frequently, so knowing the proper protocols for severe weather safety can be vital to remaining safe during these summer months.

Dave Ivan, director of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, advises residents to regularly check the forecast to see what is predicted for the days ahead and to pay attention to weather reports. Residents can sign up for local emergency notifications or download a weather application to stay updated.

Storms can be prepared for by trimming or cutting down trees and branches that could potentially fall, inflicting damage to people or property.

Thunderstorms may not always be extreme, but they can be dangerous. It is a good idea to stay indoors while thunderstorms are in the area.

Ivan said that residents should remember: “When thunder roars, stay indoors.”

Never hide underneath a tree, Ivan said. In the worse case scenario, if indoor shelter is unavailable, get into a car. A lightning strike is lessened by the structure, he said.

“If you can hear it, it’s close enough to hit. Lightning can strike 10 miles from a storm,” Ivan said.

If caught driving in a thunderstorm, the National Weather Service advises motorists to keep a firm grip on the vehicle’s steering wheel for control and, if possible, point the vehicle into the wind to minimize the risk of the vehicle overturning. Always make sure to look up, avoid trees, power lines and other objects that can potentially fall.

Ivan advises that every individual and family have a plan set in place in case of a severe weather occurrence, including thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes.

He said that when a tornado warning is issued, stick to the lowest part of the structure you are in and hunker down.

Always pick a safe space in a home away from any windows, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor. Don’t forget pets!

If a person is caught in a vehicle, the best course of action, according the the NWS, is to drive to the closest shelter. If unable to make it to a safe shelter, they recommend getting down in the car and to cover the head; or abandon the car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.

In the case of flash flooding, get to higher ground immediately and avoid flood waters.

Ivan warns drivers “never drive through flooded roadways.” Trying to assume the depth of water can be very dangerous.

Two feet of moving water can carry away most vehicles and six inches of moving water can knock a person off their feet, said the NWS.

If a vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, exit and leave the vehicle as soon as possible and get to higher ground, if this can be done safely.

Ivan urges everyone to register their cell phone numbers and addresses with Belmont County Code Red.

Belmont County 911 uses Code Red to send emergency notifications by phone, email, and text in order to keep citizens informed of emergencies such as an evacuation notice, utility outage, water main breaks, fire, floods, chemical spills, or other emergency situations.

Severe weather can be daunting, however, being prepared and knowing proper protocols is the best way to encounter a storm and protect residents and their families.

To stay updated on local weather conditions, the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency or the National Weather Service can be followed on Facebook.