Emergency officials review area tornado, storm warnings

They came out of nowhere. County emergency officials and weather experts say Tuesday's tornado outbreak blasted througheastern Sandusky County quickly and without warning. The first reports of tornado sightings rang into the Sandusky County Sheriff's office just before 5:40 p.m.
Sarah Weber
May 13, 2010

 

They came out of nowhere.

County emergency officials and weather experts say Tuesday's tornado outbreak blasted througheastern Sandusky County quickly and without warning.

The first reports of tornado sightings rang into the Sandusky County Sheriff's office just before 5:40 p.m.

The National Weather service issued a warning at 5:41 p.m., as alarms already sounded in the Fremont area.

Dispatchers initiated the sirens after residents and sheriff's Capt. Steve Stotz spotted a tornado tearing through fields in the area of County Road 198.

"It bounced around three to four times before I lost sight of it," Stotz said.

He was traveling near the Fremont Country Club Golf Course on East State Street in Fremont when dispatch radioed him about the possible tornado sightings. Stotz turned his cruiser southeast toward Clyde and quickly located the storm.

"It was probably 40 to 50 yards wide, nothing too enormous," he said. "It would touch down and then it would dissipate and it would touch down again. "Where I saw it touch down was a cut corn field and a winter wheat field and I saw that green wheat go up in the air."

Meanwhile, meteorologist Mark Adams at the National Weather Service in Cleveland said the radar showed little more than a weak storm system.

"Without having the strong storms, the thinking was we aren't going to have strong enough storms to produce a tornado," Adams said. "We weren't really much at risk."

The sudden series of twisters even surprised local storm watchers.

"I've not seen anything like this before," said Jeff Herman, Sandusky County Skywarn coordinator. "This was the first time we actually had this much activity within a three-hour period."

He said typically when tornados form in the county, they blow in from the west and are followed by intense storms.

Tuesday's storm system produced several funnels that started from a cold updraft, he said, which didn't bring heavy winds, rain or hail.

Herman said Skywarn, a team of amateur radio operators and weather chasers, immediately got five people out on the road to track the storm while four others followed it from home. Skywarn works closely with the National Weather Service, and Herman plans to send the service several reports on Tuesday's storms.

He said Skywarn documented at least one touchdown near Clyde, though Adams said the National Weather Service is still working to verify the touchdown.

"It didn't last very long, but the way (the funnels) were forming and the way they were rotating, everyone was pretty concerned," Herman said.

In addition to the tornado seen by Stotz near County Road 198 and the Clyde tornado that blew a trailer home off its foundation, witnesses saw a funnel in the 1400 block of McPherson Highway in Clyde, which damaged Hall's Garden Gate Farm Market.

Herman said given the sudden way the tornadoes blew through the county, area residents are lucky there wasn't more damage or any injuries. Several barns and homes lost shingles, trees uprooted and a phone pole cracked. No utilities were disrupted.

Sandusky County emergency management coordinator Chris Mock said it could have been a lot worse.

"When they called me in, they said there were many houses and barns blown down with a length of power poles," Mock said. "I thought we had dodged the bullet long enough and this was it."

She said fortunately those reports turned out to be more severe than the actual damage.

While the county has experienced tornado warnings in the past, there has always been some notice before the weather hit.

"There was no warning at all," she said. "It really appeared out of nowhere."

 

WHAT TO DO:

The National Weather Service expects more severe weather to move through the area today, which might be capable of producing tornados or severe storms.

If a tornado siren goes off or a tornado warning is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately. Stay away from windows, get out of mobile homes and go to a basement or underground shelter. If you can't reach such shelter, go toward a small space such as a bathroom or closet in the center part of your home. If you're driving and see a tornado approaching, park your car and dive into a ditch or low-lying area. Hunch over and cover your head and neck.

Stay tuned to sanduskyregister.com for up-to-the-minute alerts and warnings as bad weather heads your way and send cell phone photos, videos and other snapshots of the storm or storm damage to photo@sanduskyregister.com