Master of disasters in Wood County ready to retire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Brad Gilbert will never forget the day. “June 5, 2010, at 11:16 in the evening,” he said. “It was the big one.” Gilbert has been responding to emergencies in Wood County now for more than 12 years. But that one – the Lake Township tornado – was the worst. “For EMA directors, we know it’s a matter of when, not if,” he said. “We only see those types of tornadoes every 50 to 60 years.” And it just happened to be on his shift. Gilbert announced this past week that he is retiring from this job as Wood County Emergency Management Agency director at the end of March. He has already outlived the terms of many EMA directors in the state, who average 7.5 years in the job. “The job itself I continue to love. It’s the 24/7, it’s the phone calls at all hours,” Gilbert said. When storms roll in, Gilbert has to be ready to roll out. The Lake Township tornado was the worst incident during his time as EMA director. Seven people were killed, more than 30 injured, and many homes and businesses were destroyed. “It’s an emotional thing. No one wants people to die on your watch,” he said. As EMA director, Gilbert has dealt with many crises. There was the train derailment that spilled diesel fuel. “Those are always challenging.” There were two pipeline leaks – one spilling oil into Rocky Ford Creek near Cygnet, and the other leaking propane in Middleton Township prompting an evacuation. There’s been plenty of flooding, especially in the Grand Rapids and Pemberville areas along rivers. “We’ve made a lot of gains on information documenting, so we know what to expect at certain water levels,” Gilbert said. “Flooding is tough because it really impacts people for a long time period,” he said. And then there have been countless incidents of straightline winds and small tornadoes wreaking havoc. Gilbert is responsible for assessing damage from storms to see if the area qualifies for outside government assistance. Gilbert is accustomed to coming into people’s lives at low points. “Usually they are experiencing some of the worst things of their lives,” he said. Yet, he loves the job – the interaction with first responders, elected officials and the public. “We are trying to build collaboration and cooperation across the county,” before an emergency occurs, he…

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Thunderstorms forecast for later today

Brad Gilbert, Emergency Management Agency director for Wood County, has issued the following advisory: A break will develop late this morning and early afternoon from existing showers and thunderstorms.  Thunderstorms will redevelop later this afternoon and especially this evening.  Dynamics in the atmosphere today over NW Ohio will support the development of stronger to some severe thunderstsorms.  It has been awhile since we have been in the direct target of strong/severe storm potential development.  The SPC has NW Ohio in the “Slight” risk for severe weather today.  Primary threats are damaging straight-line winds, large hail, and a chance of an isolated tornado as wind sheer will allow for some rotation in the atmosphere.  Stronger storm potential will be this evening to possibly into the very early hours of Wednesday.   Please monitor weather conditions and local media/weather radios for the latest weather information and possible watches and/or warnings this evening.

Slight risk overnight Tuesday for severe weather

Brad Gilbert, Emergency Management Agency director for Wood County, has issued the following advisory: A storm system moving through the Great Lakes on Tuesday and early Wednesday will bring showers and thunderstorms.  Some of the thunderstorms could be strong to severe with damaging straight-line winds, hail, and an isolated tornado.  The Storm Prediction Center has NW Ohio in the “Slight” risk category for severe weather on Tuesday going into very early Wednesday morning.  We have seen numerous times this severe weather season how thunderstorms develop and intensify either to our west or our east; however on Tuesday, NW Ohio will be in the center of the “Slight” risk category giving us a better chance of seeing strong or severe thunderstorms.  A secondary threat from this storm system could be very heavy rainfall that could cause localized flooding issues.  Although showers and thunderstorms will be possible at any time in the afternoon and evening, forecast models indicate stronger energy in the atmosphere in the evening hours on Tuesday which could lead to stronger or even severe thunderstorms.   Please monitor weather conditions Tuesday afternoon and evening.  EMA will try to provide an update email Tuesday morning.

Friday forecast now has storms gone by kickoff

Brad Gilbert, Emergency Management Agency director for Wood County, has issued the following advisory: A couple of items have slightly changed in the forecast models for Friday since yesterday’s email.  Timing of the thunderstorms now indicate a 3-6 p.m. time frame for moving through NW Ohio.  Forecast models are still fairly consistent that severe weather and lightning producing storms will be well east of Wood County by Friday night football kick-off times.  Also, changed in the last 2 hours is the SPC’s update that shows the “Slight” risk category has been shifted slightly west to include Wood County in the next highest risk category.  With a “Slight” risk, there is a chance of an isolated tornado as well as damaging straight-line winds as primary threats.  Winds outside of thunderstorms throughout the day on Friday will be very breezy/gusty.  Some non-thunderstorm wind gusts could be 35-40 mph at times.  Once the storms have passed, there will be a notable drop in temperature through Friday evening.  Please monitor weather conditions closely Friday afternoon until this strong cold front has passed through the area. For our local schools… As stated, Friday night football games should be threat-free from severe weather and lightning; however, with the thunderstorms arriving later in the afternoon, there will be a chance of stronger weather around class dismissal times.  Although forecast models are leaning towards a line of thunderstorms moving through Wood County in the 4:30-5:30pm time frame, conditions will be favorable for scattered/isolated thunderstorms ahead of this line that could also become strong or severe, so please monitor weather conditions closely as dismissal times arrive on Friday. Much cooler weather but mostly sunny skies for the weekend!

Colliding fronts may bring severe weather on Friday

Brad Gilbert, Emergency Management Agency director for Wood County, has issued the following advisory: A strong cold front will move across Northern Ohio on Friday bringing showers and thunderstorms.  Because of the strength of the cold front and the warm/moist air that will be in place over Northern Ohio, thunderstorms may become severe.  The Storm Prediction Center has NW Ohio in the “Marginal” risk category for severe weather while area east and south of Wood County will be in the “Slight” risk category.  Damaging straight line winds and hail will be the primary threats along with heavy downpours of rain.  Timing of thunderstorm develop on Friday as of today incidates thunderstorms will likely develop and begin to strengthen over NW Ohio in the early-mid afternoon before moving east/south as more mature/stronger thunderstorms.  Much cooler air will move into the area Friday night and into the weekend as Fall officially begins at 9:54 p.m. Saturday night. As many on this email list are school officials with football games on Friday night, the timing at this point indicates thunderstorms will likely be out of the area by kick-off times.  Some lingering showers may still be in the area; however, the lightning and severe weather threat should be well east and south of Wood County by football time.  EMA will monitor forecasted conditions and provide an update Friday morning especially if timing changes and may impact football games Friday night.  

Severe weather expected to hit on Sunday

Brad Gilbert, Wood County EMA director, has issued the following advisory: The EMA has just completed a conference call with the National Weather Service concerning a significant storm system moving into Ohio this weekend.  The remnants of tropical storm Gordon will be combining with another storm system and a cold front over Ohio which will bring extremely heavy rain to most areas of Ohio.  Attached is the current estimate of rainfall for this storm system across Northern Ohio through Monday morning. A significant portion of Wood County is in the 2” – 3” rainfall category.  Please keep in mind that these are current estimates and a slight change(20-30 miles) in the storm track could easily shift even heavier rain totals over Wood County. Scattered showers are possible Saturday afternoon with steadier rain starting to move into the area Saturday evening.  Steady rain will become even more likely towards and after midnight Saturday and through most of the day on Sunday.  Thunderstorms will also become possible on Sunday with very gusty winds even outside of thunderstorms. Training thunderstorms and flash flooding will be the first concern on Sunday as rain could accumulate quickly in low lying areas (roads and land).  Stream and river flooding issues will also become possible by Sunday evening and into Monday. The Portage River basin will likely see 2”-3” of rain which will cause a rapid rise in the Portage River on Sunday.  Low lying areas will likely become inundated by late afternoon and evening on Sunday.  Persons living along the Portage River should keep a very close eye on conditions on Sunday into Monday.  Minor flood stage for the river is likely, but if rainfall in the river basin approaches or exceeds 3” of rain, Moderate flood stage will be possible with a small chance of Major flood stage (again if rainfall starts exceeding 3”).  Preparedness and precautions will be the key to reducing the impact of flooding on lives and property. EMA will receive an update briefing from the NWS at 5:00 p.m. today (Sept. 7).  We will issue another email with updated information immediately following their update.  Updated information will also be posted on the EMA Facebook page throughout the weekend.  Please use extra caution when driving on Sunday and Monday as roadways may have ponding water on them and low lying areas in roadways may have significant water standing in them.  If you…

Unsettled weather in weekend forecast

Brad Gilbert, Wood County EMA director has issued the following advisory: A storm system moving through the Great Lakes this weekend will bring unsettled weather to the area both days.  Showers and thunderstorms will be likely early Saturday morning with some clearing by late morning and into the afternoon hours.  Scattered thunderstorms will be on the increase again in the late afternoon and evening on Saturday.  Some of the thunderstorms could be strong to even isolated severe.  A repeat of this scenario is likely on Sunday with rain early in the morning and a little better chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon and evening.  More widespread severe weather will be likely across lower Michigan all the way to the Ohio/Michigan line on Sunday.  There will be periods of sunshine with very warm and humid conditions throughout the weekend as well. The Storm Prediction Center has most of NW Ohio in the “Marginal” risk category for severe weather on both days.  A higher risk category of “Slight” will be in place across southern lower Michigan down to the Ohio/Michigan line, so stronger weather is expected to our immediate north.  Please monitor weather conditions this weekend especially if you have outside activities.