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
  • Springs, Pa., man missing since Jan. 6

    SPRINGS, Pa. — Pennsylvania State Police are seeking help to find a Springs man missing since Jan. 6.

     

    April 19, 2014

  • Man charged with handgun crime

    Timothy Hart Winkler, 30, Grantsville, was arrested by city officers early Friday after a complainant and a witness said he pulled a handgun during an argument in front of 124 Seymour St.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Redman.asp.jpeg Moorefield man jailed on felony drug count

    KEYSER, W. Va. — A Moorefield man was arrested on various charges Thursday, including a felony drug offense for possession of amphetamines, according to the Keyser Police Department.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • City woman charged in domestic call

    CUMBERLAND — A city woman was arrested Thursday evening after Cumberland Police investigated a domestic assault complaint in the 100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    April 18, 2014

  • Carlton.jpg Arrest made in alleged drug deal

    CUMBERLAND — A 25-year-old city man was arrested Thursday night after Cumberland Police observed him allegedly taking part in a drug deal on Columbia Street.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff warns of scams targeting taxpayers

    CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson cautioned residents Thursday to be aware of continuing telephone scams that are targeting taxpayers.

    April 17, 2014

  • DSC_0446.JPG Oakland returns to normal after tanker accident

    OAKLAND — Nearly 12 hours after a propane tanker overturned in the heart of its business district, the town of Oakland returned to normal early Wednesday night.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • New River Gorge bald eagle dies from injuries

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A female bald eagle that nested in the New River Gorge has died from injuries suffered last month when she was hit by a train and later by a vehicle.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
     

    April 17, 2014

  • Park Service opens Canal Classrooms Park Service opens Canal Classrooms

    CUMBERLAND – The National Park Service held a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday for a new program called Canal Classrooms, which will offer students pre-K through fifth grade accredited classwork on the Canal Place grounds.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday