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Severe weather can happen anywhere and anytime. So what if you're not home during a weather emergency? There are two commercial sites in the state of Ohio that are certified, ‘Storm Ready' by the National Weather Service. One is the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. The other is the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point.
When you're at home during a severe weather outbreak, common safety practices should include, getting to the basement or an interior room with no windows, staying there until the threat has completely lifted, and making sure you and your family are out of harm's way.
So what do you do if you're not at home? Spring severe weather can change in an instant with a sunny, warm day turning humid and grey very quickly. With its ‘Storm Ready' status, Cedar Point has a plan in place to keep you safe.
Director of Safety for Cedar Point, Ken Berryhill says, "We were certified by the National Weather Service in May 2012 to be in compliance with their storm ready program which required five different areas of preparation for severe weather."
Those five different areas include:
24-hour warning stations
The ability to receive warnings from the National Weather Service
Proper weather monitoring
Public alert and information systems
Formal training for employees
With approximately 3 million people traveling to the park each year, America's Roller Coast has seen more than its fair share of weather activity.
Bryan Edwards is the park's Public Relations Manager and Spokesperson. He says, "Weather impacts everything we do here at Cedar Point. We're an outdoor entertainment venue and different weather affects different rides."
Berryhill adds, "Generally when we start getting severe weather, our rides are already closed down prior to that anyway because of the lightning and the rain, because they are affected by those conditions."
According to Cedar Point's website, the park's ‘Ride Policies and Procedures' (LINK) reads,
Rides will close due to weather conditions, particularly rain, high winds and/or lightning… Cedar Point makes every effort to reopen the rides as quickly and safely as possible after the adverse weather conditions cease.
"There's nothing that commands more of our time and effort here than the safety of our guests and our employees," reiterates Edwards.
When severe weather is spotted off the horizon of the park's 3-mile-long peninsula, the ball is set in motion. Rides are shut down, announcements are made over the park's PA system, and trained employees take action to usher guests into the nearest storm shelter.
During our visit, Edwards showed Meteorologist Kimberly Newman around the ‘Storm Ready' campus. Clearly marked ‘Storm Shelter' signs can be found on the Snoopy Boutique, other shops and restaurants, and outside most restrooms.
Edwards shows, "All throughout here, there's different places for them to stay safe until the storm passes."
Berryhill stresses the importance of taking shelter quickly—even if it isn't in a location guests would normally have access to. He says, "We want to have our guests take shelter, really, in any kind of structure to protect them from flying debris… We have identified some [locations] that are a little better than others." He continues, "It may be in a back room, a store room, it may not be an area that guests normally go to, but we can provide them with that location during a storm if we have to."
While there is an immediate response to guest safety, some procedures have been in place well before the first rumble of thunder or flash of lightning.
To ground the charge of a possible lightning strike, all of the park's tallest rides are equipped with lightning rods. You'll notice them on the Power Tower, Millennium Force, and the 302' tall Wind Seeker.
The devastating impacts of extreme weather can be reduced through improved readiness. With its ‘Storm Ready' status, Cedar Point is slowly becoming one of the safest places to be during severe weather. Not to mention the most fun.
For more on the National Weather Service's Storm Ready initiative and a map of locations: