By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Right on the heels of a terrible winter of snow and freezing weather comes the unpredictable spring of tornados, flash floods and thunderstorms. Now might be a good time to get a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
Unlike outdoor warning sirens that might not be heard while sleeping, weather radios sound an indoor alarm when severe weather strikes. More importantly, the radios provide information about what to do in different kinds of emergencies.
As part of Severe Weather Safety Awareness Week, which started Sunday and runs through March 29, officials are placing more emphasis on weather radios while offering the public tips on what to do during emergencies, said Don Maccarone, director of the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency.
"We will distribute information on how the warning systems operate and information about severe weather and safety precautions,'' Maccarone said. "This information talks about outdoor warning sirens for a tornado watch, how to seek shelter when severe weather threatens. We want people to make use of radios and television and also to be tuned to the weather radios.''
Since 1970, Ohio has recorded about 17 tornadoes a year, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. April, May, June and July are the busiest months of the year for tornadoes in the Tristate.
Last year was unusual because 16 twisters statewide were spawned by a single storm Nov. 10, one of which killed five people and injured 26 as it crossed parts of five counties in northwest Ohio.
Locally, Maccarone said there has been a noticeable increase in the use of weather radios since severe tornadoes struck in 1999. On April 9 that year, a tornado killed four people, injured dozens of others and destroyed 95 homes as it ripped through Blue Ash, Montgomery and Sycamore and Symmes townships. It was the worst twister to hit Greater Cincinnati since 1974.
"The indoor warning device is becoming more popular because it gives the information right in the home,'' Maccarone said. "Some give a wide range of information and some can be programmed to a specific area. The outdoor sirens are not perfect by themselves and were not meant to replace the inside warning system. Weather radios operate around the clock and can alert people at 2 or 3 a.m."
The NOAA Weather Radio has more than 750 stations in the 50 states. Maccarone recommends weather radio receivers should be standard equipment in every home.
They also are recommended in hospitals, schools, places of worship, nursing homes, restaurants, grocery stores, recreation centers, office buildings, sports facilities, theaters, retail stores, bus and train stations, airports, marinas and other public gathering places.
"We have noticed about a 25 percent increase in the sale of weather radios,'' said Dwayne Hicks, salesman for the Radio Shack store in Brentwood Plaza, Finneytown. "I think the sales are increasing because our weather changes so frequently and the weather radio is a way people can really stay on top of the changing weather.''
Weather radios can be powered by electricity or battery. They can be purchased for as little as $20 and as much as $90 at most Radio Shack stores. Other sellers can be found by checking the website www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr.
Justin Wolf, salesman for the Radio Shack store, 2370 Dixie Highway, Hamilton, said they have noticed about a 15 percent increase in sales.
For information about the outdoor and indoor warning system, call 513-851-7080.
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