Severe Weather Week marks start of tornado season

 

Editor’s Note: Gov. Greg Abbott has proclaimed this as Severe Weather Awareness Week. This blog was originally published on April 30, 2014 under the headline “Tornado preparation is important – even in BCS.”

By Brian Hilton, Emergency Management Coordinator

The Bryan-College Station area has had its share of funnel clouds and tornado scares over the years, but we’ve managed to escape any loss of life or catastrophic damage. In fact, straight line winds and microbursts have caused more property damage here than twisters.

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock PhotoAlthough strong tornadoes are uncommon in our area, that doesn’t mean a deadly tornado couldn’t happen. And even small tornadoes have the potential to be violent.

Since 2000, Brazos County has experienced nine small tornadoes, with three rated F1 (wind speeds of 73-122 mph) on the Fujita scale and the rest F0 (under 73 mph). In December 2006, a F1 tornado moved south to north for five miles across central College Station and did considerable damage to an apartment complex on FM2818 and several businesses along Southwest Parkway and Texas Avenue. Three people suffered injuries.

The following video from 1990 shows an ominous tornado that briefly touched down near Easterwood Airport, forcing the evacuation of Olsen Field during a Texas A&M baseball game. Fortunately, it caused little more than raised heart rates and was later rated a F0:

 

Texas leads the nation with an average of 137 tornadoes each year. More than 60 percent of these storms occur from April to June. An outbreak of a dozen or more tornadoes in the Houston Area in November 1992 – which included a F4 in Channelview – shows that we are not immune.

Our near misses and the devastation of the tornadoes across the South last spring are vivid reminders of why it’s important to know how to prepare and react to a tornado.

These links provide in-depth information about what to do before, during and after a tornado:

National Weather Service videos:

Stay Informed

Bryan and College Station do not have outdoor tornado sirens. College Station voters defeated a proposition to fund sirens in the 1990 bond election.

When severe weather approaches, pay close attention to local radio and television stations. They do a great job of providing pertinent information, including tornado watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service, but tornadoes can occur even if a watch or warning has not been issued.

In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials. If a violent storm approaches the Bryan-College Station area, these are the best ways to monitor events and get timely information:

 Recommended Mobile Apps

A number of useful mobile apps also are available for smartphones and tablets. Many of these also have emergency alert capabilities. Here are some recommended apps that you can find in your favorite app store:

Just because tornadoes have been rare in our area doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant and well-prepared. Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms, and we should always stand ready to handle whatever nature sends our way.

About Brian: Brian Hilton has been the City of College Station’s emergency management coordinator since 2003, when he retired as sergeant first class after 20 years in the United States Army. He also serves on the Homeland Security Advisory Committee for the Brazos Valley Council of Governments. Originally from Fort Wayne, Ind., Hilton attended Columbia College in Columbia, Mo.

Photo Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

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