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MAHONING VALLEY Tornado season stirs up fears



Published: Mon, March 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



About eight tornadoes touched down in Ohio last year.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LOWELLVILLE -- The Griffith family has rebuilt and recovered from a tornado that destroyed their garage and damaged their home and vintage Corvette when it touched down in Lowellville on April 9 last year.

Officials from the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency said the tornado was an F-2 class that brought winds of up to 120 mph and left a path of damage about 75 yards wide and four miles long.

Since then, the family has had five windows, a new roof and siding installed on their 6th Street home and a new garage built from the footings up. Their black 1973 Corvette still sits with its broken rear window and cracked paint as a reminder of the storm.

What family is facing: But Jackie Griffith said that while most of their belongings have been repaired, her family, including her husband, Michael, their four children and even the family dog, still have personal fears to overcome.

"There were some bad winds the other night and they got a little scared," she said of her children and family pet.

They found their dog huddled next to their car after the tornado; rain now makes it nervous.

And Griffith admits to watching the weather every day, much more than she did before the tornado.

"Especially since it's getting to be that season again," she said.

That season is Ohio's peak tornado season, which Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials say takes place from April through July.

And the state gets its fair share of tornadoes.

Officials said about eight tornadoes touched down in the state last year, well below the state average of 16 per year. One person was injured from a tornado and no fatalities were reported.

Pa. statistics: Pennsylvania averages about 12 tornadoes per year and saw four last year.

Rich Kane, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said May 31 is statistically the worst day for storms in Pennsylvania. Ten percent of all tornadoes happen on that day, as do 18 percent of all significant storms.

One of the worst tornadoes to hit Ohio and Pennsylvania occurred May 30, 1985. It killed at least 31 people and injured hundreds more.

Kane said Pennsylvania's worst flash flood, which killed about 2,200 people, also occurred May 31 in Johnstown, Pa., in the late 1800s.

"Every 30 years or so, it seems like we're up for the big one," Kane said.

Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, advised people to purchase a frequency-activated emergency radio that can be used in a power outage.

"We can't reach people if they don't have the capability to receive our information," he said.

He said the radios are about half the size of a cigar box and cost about $35 to $50.

Ohio officials have scheduled a statewide tornado drill at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday.

wheatley@vindy.com




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