Cumberland Times-News

Latest news

May 4, 2013

Disaster Preparedness

SOMERSET, PA. — Springtime is a season of hope and rebirth, but for many, in Somerset County, it is also a time of uneasiness and fear.

    In just a few weeks, county residents will mark the 15th anniversary of a series of events that has left an indelible mark on their lives and the landscape.

    Sunday, May 31, 1998, began as a typical spring day, but by 9 p.m., everything changed in the southern portion of the county, when an F2 tornado ripped through the small town of Salisbury and surrounding areas. The twister killed one resident, injured 15 and destroyed 28 businesses and many homes along its 10-mile path.

Just two days later, residents were dealt a second blow, when a second storm system produced an F3 twister that swept through the region, destroying homes in southern Somerset County and reaching into the Finzel and Frostburg areas.

Eric Shaulis and his family were among those affected by the second round of storms. They were stunned when Salisbury was destroyed and never imagined that just 48 hours later they would face their own disaster. Their home in Laurel Falls was completely destroyed by the funnel cloud as they huddled in their basement. Thankfully, Shaulis, his wife and three young children escaped injury.

Prior to the storm outbreak, Shaulis said, he and many other residents never imagined that Somerset County would be hit by one, let alone three tornadoes, in as many days.

“I think many of us were under the assumption that because we live in the mountain area, that tornadoes were not possible,” Shaulis explained.

The skill and expertise of emergency personnel was something he knew they possessed, but his faith in their efforts sky-rocketed in the days following the tornadoes.

    “The tornado came through Laurel Falls at 9:30 p.m. on June 2, 1998; within an hour, 911 was notified that no one was injured in our area, saving firemen from trying to reach us in the dark, with trees and power lines down everywhere,” Shaulis explained. “The next morning, the firemen, with many helpers, laid a plan together to reach us. It did not take them long to reach us, and to continue through the area checking the other properties. I have complete confidence in the abilities of the emergency officials in our area in preparation, and reaction, to natural disasters.  Even in 1998, with very little experience, we could have not asked for more out of the local fire departments. They had a plan when it all unfolded.”

    In the hours following the Salisbury tornado, emergency personnel quickly responded to offer aid and support for those affected. However, despite their best efforts, personnel quickly found that there was no access to electricity and roads were blocked, filled with debris from destroyed buildings and trees.

    Joel Landis, hazmat logistics/training officer of the Somerset County Department of Emergency Services, and Rick Lohr, executive director of Somerset County 911,  were among the hundreds of first responders during the tornado outbreaks.

 “We have in place procedures and programs as a result of the storms in 1998. Every disaster is teachable; we can always learn and improve our responses,” Landis explained. “We can learn something every time there is a disaster. For example, there are many lessons to be learned following the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion at the Texas fertilizer plant.”

    Somerset County has been in the unique and unfortunate position to respond to several unusual events in addition to the 1998 tornadoes.

    “We have faced the crash of Flight 93 and later the rescue mission of the collapse of the Quecreek Mine. We face, every year, changeable weather, that can include extreme heat, cold and quickly rising waters. We quickly realized we have to be ready for anything,” Landis added. “Local responders are the first line of defense in any situation, whether it be firefighters or EMS, their dedication is unmatched.”

The Somerset County Department of Emergency Services hosts several classes on various emergency preparedness topics. Most recently, Landis helped organize a class called Skywarn Spotter, a voluntary program in which the public can participate and interact with the local National Weather Service Office. 

In many cases, people feel helpless in the face of diasters, but Lohr said there are several simple steps every family can take that can not only empower them, but could also prove life-saving.

“Be aware of your surroundings. Every one family, every home needs to have an emergency plan and an emergency go kit, that provides substantiality of food, water, medications and a power source, if possible for 72 hours,” Lohr explained.

Though the disasters that have occurred in Somerset County have been costly, in many ways, Lohr said these events served to highlight the importance of volunteer personnel and the role they play.

    “Volunteer personnel are often the life-blood of communities. Everyone pulling together is how we weather any emergency. I believe that is true of any area in any situation,” Lohr added.

 Contact Angie Brant at abrant@ times-news.com.

Text Only
Latest news
  • Truck catches fire on city bridge

    CUMBERLAND — Cumberland firefighters doused a pickup truck fire on the Baltimore Street bridge spanning Wills Creek about 11 a.m. Tuesday, but not before it destroyed the engine compartment and damaged the passenger area of the Chevrolet.

    April 22, 2014

  • Carbon monoxide causes evacuation at Ramada

    CUMBERLAND — High carbon monoxide readings at the Ramada Inn on George Street resulted in the evacuation of the first floor at midday Tuesday and caused a senior citizen prom to be moved elsewhere.

    April 22, 2014

  • picketing 2-1.jpg Workers begin picketing outside WV Schools for Deaf and Blind

    ROMNEY, W.Va. – Child care workers and union reps began picketing outside the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Tuesday morning.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Romney firefighters get federal grant

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — The Romney Fire Company will receive $67,925 in funding through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

    April 22, 2014

  • Sgt. Walter May.jpg Sgt. Walt May earns Award of Merit

    CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Natural Resources Police honored Sgt. Walt May of Westernport during its annual awards ceremony held last week at Chesapeake College.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police charge woman with false statements

    CUMBERLAND — A Cumberland woman was charged with giving two false statements to police after they investigated an alleged assault and robbery.

    April 22, 2014

  • City business reports burglary

    CUMBERLAND — City police are investigating a breaking and entering to a business in the 300 block of Valley Street that was reported Monday.

    April 22, 2014

  • Spring turkey seasons to open in West Virginia next week

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says spring gobbler season will open Monday and run through May 24.

     

    April 22, 2014

  • Local residents in U.S. District Court

    CUMBERLAND — A Flintstone woman was sentenced and a Mineral County, W.,Va., woman is awaiting sentencing after appearing recently in U. S. District Court in Martinsburg, W.Va.

    April 21, 2014

  • Drugs found in car during traffic stop

    CUMBERLAND — A city man was arrested Sunday on drug possession and distribution charges following a traffic stop by an officer on patrol in the Pershing Street area.

    April 21, 2014

Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads
NDN Video
Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down Rise of the Milkbots TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Raw: Keflezighi, Jeptoo Win Boston Marathon Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Lindsay Lohan's Jaw-Dropping Secret President Sends Message To Boston And Marathon Runners LA Pastor Attracts Churchgoers with Pot Lauren Stoner Shows Off Her Incredible Bikini Body
NDN Video
Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down Rise of the Milkbots TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Raw: Keflezighi, Jeptoo Win Boston Marathon Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Lindsay Lohan's Jaw-Dropping Secret President Sends Message To Boston And Marathon Runners LA Pastor Attracts Churchgoers with Pot Lauren Stoner Shows Off Her Incredible Bikini Body