Family Escapes Tornado’s Rampage

Credits NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards


The Jones family, Happy to be alive.

Happy to be alive: After hearing a tornado warning on their NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, Terry Jones (center), daughter Grace (left), wife Janet (right) and Butch, the family cat, quickly took refuge in their basement just before an EF2 tornado ripped through their Ohio property on Sept.16, 2010.

High resolution (Credit: With permission from Grace Jones.)

“Our community was devastated by the tornado. I knew the twister was headed toward my house so I banded the family together in the basement as the ripping tornado wind tore away most of our roof.  We thought we might die huddled together under some old moving blankets. We waited for it to end, praying in the dark eerie quiet of our basement shelter.”
Ohio resident Terry Jones

Terry Jones and his family are feeling very, very lucky after a Sept. 16 EF2 tornado touched down near their home, southwest of Wooster, a hub for agricultural research in Ohio. The tornado, with winds that clocked in at nearly 130 miles per hour, tore a path 200 yards wide for over 12 miles, leaving their 10-acre homestead devastated and their community riddled with shattered glass, broken concrete, flattened buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines. 

The day seemed ordinary enough until Jones returned home after picking up his daughter from school shortly after 5 p.m. That’s about when his NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards notified him of a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service’s Cleveland forecast office. He quickly turned his gaze outside and saw a twirling, dark mass lifting the neighbor’s barn.

“It looked like a giant column of pitch black sky and sounded like a power sander that was eerily calmer than I expected,” said Jones.

The Jones family’s 10-acre property.

The Jones family’s 10-acre property — once thick with tall trees — was transformed into a field of broken timber after an EF2 tornado raked Wooster, Ohio, on Sept. 16, 2010.

High resolution (Credit: With permission from Grace Jones.)

Worse yet, the ominous tornado was heading over the field — and straight toward his home.

“I quickly got my wife, daughter and our cat, and scrambled to the basement storage room where we covered ourselves with moving blankets,” recalled Jones. “Never have I been so frightened! I knew what was coming our way, but I did not tell the others to help keep us all calmer. The lights in the house were going crazy, so I turned off the circuit breaker. I thought this is it: we will never see each other again.”

Thankfully, that wasn’t to be. When the tornado had passed, the Jones family crawled out from under the blankets and used their cell phone to call 911. Within 10 minutes the fire department arrived, but had trouble reaching the house due to an abundance of debris scattered about their half-mile driveway. 

“We yelled out to the firemen rushing toward our house, telling them we were safe. But we had a lot of property damage,” said Jones. “It looked like an atomic bomb hit the property, with over 300 trees destroyed.”

An assortment of NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.

An assortment of NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards are available at retailers across the country.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA.)

Weather Radios: For the Storm-Prone, It’s Tune In and Take Cover

Many communities are fitted with blaring storm sirens. But, the Jones family lives in a densely wooded and rural area outside of siren range. Jones says he has come to appreciate NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards in a whole new way. 

“It’s quite possible it saved all our lives,” he said. “NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is not a toy, but a life-saving device that should be required for every home, just like a fire detector.”

NOAA’s Weather Radio All Hazards is provided as a public service and is an integral component of the nation’s Emergency Alert System. The National Weather Service's 123 forecast offices broadcast local weather warnings over the radios, giving those in harm’s way critical lead time to prepare for safety. The radios also relay civil emergency messages on behalf of law enforcement agencies.

NOAA Weather Radios are available at most electronic retail stores, marine supply stores, mail-order catalogs and on the Internet. Prices vary by model, but typically range between $20 and $80. (Read more about the NOAA Radio All Hazards here.)

Sept. 16 tornado damage.

Staff from the National Weather Service surveyed the Sept. 16 tornado damage and found destruction along a 12-mile path in northern Ohio. Seen here is a collapsed building at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center campus in Wooster.

High resolution (Credit: Gary Garnet, NOAA NWS.)

Tornadoes: They Roar in With A Vengeance, But Don’t Stick Around for Long

The Sept. 16 Wooster tornado was one of 12 tornadoes that developed in Ohio and West Virginia that day, requiring the mobilization of National Weather Service forecast offices in Charleston, W. Va., Cleveland, Ohio,  Wilmington, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa. 

The NWS warning teams used Doppler radar and radar imagery provided by the Federal Aviation Administration’s terminal Doppler weather radars, which are conveniently located near the three major airports in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo, Ohio. Terminal Doppler weather radio imagery provides a more enhanced view of oncoming storms, especially those close to the radar, and gives meteorologists more detailed information for their forecasts and warnings. 

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most devastating storms, but they do not last long. The average length of a tornado is only five to 30 minutes, but they can plow an overwhelming path of death and destruction in their wake.

Because tornadoes form very quickly, there is usually little time to heed a warning and react appropriately. The Jones family did everything right: They had a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards in their home, and they had a “safe room” below ground level where they sought refuge until the tornado passed.

Unfortunately, the Jones family says that the state of their pastoral property, which is surrounded by woodlands, a scenic lake and formal gardens, is comparable to what you’d find after a volcanic eruption — minus the lava, of course.

“You see tragedies like this on the news all the time and you wonder how people are going to overcome that disaster,” said Janet Jones, Terry’s wife. “You never think it will happen to you. Then, in the blink of an eye it does.”
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