By Brian Hilton, Emergency Management Coordinator
Saturday’s tornado in nearby Franklin destroyed much of the town with winds of 136-165 mph. Fortunately, only about a dozen minor injuries were reported, but the dangerous EF-3 twister served as another wake-up call for the Bryan-College Station community.
As if we needed another warning.
Texas leads the nation with an average of 137 tornadoes each year, and more than 60 percent of these storms occur from April to June.
Only three years ago, a tornado battered several neighborhoods along a two-mile path in Bryan, damaging more than 150 homes. In December 2006, a twister moved south to north for five miles across central College Station and did considerable damage along FM2818, Southwest Parkway, and Texas Avenue.
The National Weather Service rated both of those tornadoes as EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with winds estimated at 110 miles per hour. Since 2000, Brazos County has experienced about a dozen EF-0 or EF-1 tornadoes.
While our community has had its share of funnel clouds and tornado scares over the years, 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.
Although strong tornadoes are uncommon in our area, Saturday’s storm in Franklin reminds us that powerful tornadoes can happen here. And as the 2016 Bryan tornado proved, even small twisters have the potential to be violent.
Those storms 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:
- Get Weather Ready: Before a Tornado
- Get Weather Ready: During a Tornado
- Get Weather Ready: After a Tornado
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 an excellent 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:
- Own a NOAA Weather Radio: The radio’s alarm tone will automatically activate when a warning is issued by the NOAA National Weather Service. NOAA Weather Radio is also available as a smartphone app.
- Monitor local television and radio stations: They broadcast Emergency Alert System messages, watches and warnings, and other vital information.
- Brazos County Emergency Notification System: The system notifies citizens of local emergencies that occur day or night on their cell phones and landlines. To register your mobile phone number to receive notifications, go to brazosceoc.org/alerts.
- Code Maroon: To register to receive Texas A&M’s Code Maroon alerts by email or text message, go to codemaroon.tamu.edu.
- Blogs: City of College Station, Community Emergency Operations Center.
- Twitter: City of College Station (@Cityof CS), City of Bryan (@CityofBryan), Texas A&M Code Maroon (@TAMUCodeMaroon).
- Facebook: Brazos County Community Emergency Operations Center, City of College Station, City of Bryan.
- Websites: City of College Station Emergency Management, Brazos County Department of Emergency Management, City of Bryan Emergency Management, Texas A&M Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, NOAA Storm Prediction Center, American Red Cross.
Recommended Mobile Apps
Some useful mobile apps are available for smartphones and tablets. Many of these have emergency alert capabilities. Here are some recommended apps that you can find in your favorite app store:
- American Red Cross Tornado App
- NOAA Weather Radio
- NOAA Radar Pro
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 comes our way.
About the Blogger
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. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Hilton attended Columbia College in Columbia, Mo.
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