Weekly Feature

2017-08-10 / Editorial

Damage from severe storms can be mitigated

It has been a wild summer for weather, and most of it has, unfortunately, not been due to hot or sunny days.

Western New York recently underwent two consecutive weeks of intense rain and three confirmed tornados, two of which hit the areas of Orchard Park and Hamburg, causing significant damage.

Tornadoes aren’t generally a point of concern for Western New Yorkers. While we receive enough snow to blanket our cities and towns in a thick, sometimes impenetrable accumulation of white, and while temperatures are sure to dip below freezing during the winter months, there is little precedent here for winds nearing 100 mph.

According to NYdatabases.com, there have been about 400 twisters in New York since records were officially started in 1950. However, many of those storms have happened in the central and eastern part of the state. In our area, we’ve only seen a couple of tornadoes in the past 67 years.

The first tornado that was spawned in the Southtowns just a few weeks ago, an EF2, cut a 5-mile-long, 700-foot-wide path from Hamburg to Orchard Park, with top winds at 105 mph, the weather service said. The second hit the Town of Holland with winds topping out at 95 mph. It traveled for 2.5 miles and was about 500 feet wide.

Though Western New Yorkers should not expect to outdo the Midwest as the world’s tornado capital, there are some steps that can be easily taken to mitigate property damage during one of these powerful summer storms.

An emergency kit should be kept in all households with at least a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food for each family member, first-aid supplies, personal hygiene items, a portable radio, flashlight, fresh batteries, portable lanterns, and important contact numbers, such as for medical centers, insurance agents, utilities, neighbors and family members.

Maintain trees and shrubbery in your yard, removing weak branches and eliminating trees that could fall on your home during a storm. Falling trees and blowing debris in storms often cause fatalities and severe structural damage.

Identify the safest area in your home which can also serve as a place where you can take shelter when the storm hits. In most structures, this will be the basement or a small interior room without windows, such as a bathroom. In a high-rise building, seek out a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Close interior doors and put as many walls between you and the storm as possible. If so, you can perhaps safely ride out a tornado.

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