03/12/04 — School prepared for tornado drill

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School prepared for tornado drill

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 12, 2004 2:04 PM

Wayne County public schools will be participating in tornado drills as part of "Severe Weather Awareness Week" in North Carolina.

Next week students, teachers and administrators at all schools will learn the procedures to react to a tornado warning. The drills are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

Even the staff in the central administration building will take part, said Olivia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the school system.

The county's Emergency Services department will also be testing its communications systems next week, said Director Joe Gurley. "We'll be reviewing our protocols."

County residents do need to be concerned about tornadoes, he added. The Mount Olive and Seven Springs areas were hit hard by storms in 1984, and damage is reported every year due to high winds.

Gov. Mike Easley designated March 14-20 as "Severe Weather Awareness Week." He asked all residents to review the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety's recommendations on protective actions on tornadoes and other damaging storms.

"Tornadoes can occur with little or no warning, and you may have only a short time to make life-or-death decisions," Easley said. "North Carolina was fortunate last year in that no fatalities occurred from the 31 tornadoes that touched down, but there were two known injuries and $2.9 million in damage from these twisters."

Last year in North Carolina, the National Weather Service issued 86 tornado warnings, 823 severe thunderstorm warnings and 343 flash flood warnings. There were 397 incidents of severe thunderstorm winds of 60 miles per hour or greater with 11 injuries, and 411 severe hail incidents.

The state also had one major hurricane, six severe winter storms including an ice storm, five fatal lightning strikes and seven flood-related fatalities in North Carolina.

The safest place during a tornado is underground in a basement or storm cellar, crime control Secretary Bryan Beatty said

"If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or smaller inner room without windows such as a bathroom or closet," Beatty said. "Try to find something sturdy you can get under to protect yourself from flying debris or a collapsed roof."

If a tornado is outside and no shelter is available, lie on the ground, in a ditch or depression if possible. "Use your arms to protect your head and neck," Beatty said.

Residents are encouraged to listen to local radio, television, a weather channel or a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio for information on severe weather.

"People in mobile homes are especially vulnerable to damage from high winds and should go to a prearranged shelter if severe weather is predicted," Beatty said. "Don't try to outrun a tornado in a car.

"If you are in school, at work or in a mall, seek shelter against an interior wall, away from windows and skylights and out of gymnasiums, auditoriums and other rooms with large open areas or a large expanse of roof," he added.

More information is available at www.nccrimecontrol.org.