03/06/18 — Getting prepped for severe weather

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Getting prepped for severe weather

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 6, 2018 5:50 AM


Violent thunderstorms.

Severe winds.

Wayne County is no stranger to severe weather.

Just last week a tornado warning was issued for southern Wayne County and there were reported sightings of a funnel cloud near North Duplin Jr./Sr. High School near Calypso in neighboring Duplin County.

"Severe weather can occur at any time, as was reflected with last Thursday's tornado warning which delayed the dismissal of a number of our schools," said Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Dunsmore.

North Carolina is traditionally an active tornado and severe thunderstorm state. Spring is the peak season, but severe weather can occur at any time of the year.

To help raise awareness of severe weather, Gov. Roy Cooper has declared March 4 to 10 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week and is urging North Carolinians to prepare and practice safety plans in case severe weather strikes.

As part of the week, the annual statewide tornado drill will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

All National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio stations, along with local broadcast stations, will use the Emergency Alert System to transmit the tornado drill message. The drill gives North Carolina schools and businesses an opportunity to test their preparedness and action plans for a severe weather.

It is conducted in cooperation with the National Weather Service, local broadcasters, local school systems and North Carolina Emergency Management.

Wayne County Public Schools will participate in the drill.

"This week's statewide tornado drill is designed to help our schools reinforce emergency response plans for our students, staff and visitors," Dunsmore said.

"Each school will also use this training opportunity to assess how well their drill is executed and identify any issues or concerns that may need to be addressed."

After hearing the announcement for the "tornado warning," teachers and school administrators will be required to move their students to designated locations in their school.

In case of a tornado, the district's procedures follow recommendations by North Carolina Emergency Management, school officials said.

Students and adults are required to seek shelter in designated areas clear of windows, such as interior hallways.

Students and staff in mobile classrooms are brought into the main building. Schools try to move students from gymnasiums, auditoriums and other rooms with a large expanse of roof.

Bus drivers are also encouraged to be alert for bad weather on their routes.

March, May and November are the deadliest months for tornadoes in the state.

In 2017, the National Weather Service issued 85 tornado warnings in North Carolina and recorded 30 actual tornadoes.

There were 57 flash flood warnings issued last year and 104 flood or flash flood events across the state.

In addition, the National Weather Service issued 561 severe thunderstorm warnings and recorded 548 severe wind events.

Numerous severe storms, flash flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes caused severe damage and loss of life.

Estimated damage in North Carolina in 2017 from severe weather totaled $60 million.

"Spring often brings strong storms to North Carolina and we need to take steps now to be ready," Cooper said. "Know the risks, make sure your family has an emergency plan in place, and stay alert to weather reports to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

"Taking the time to practice what you'll do when severe weather strikes can help save lives. I urge everyone to participate in the statewide tornado drill."

Tornadoes form during severe thunderstorms when winds change direction and increase in speed.

Tornadoes can produce large hail and damaging winds that can reach 300 miles per hour.

Residents should be equally prepared when other forms of severe weather threaten, such as lightning, floods or hail.

A tornado can develop rapidly with little warning, so having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly.

* What to do: Listen to local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio when severe weather is likely. If a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been detected in your area. Take shelter immediately.

* Where to go: At home go to the basement if available. Or go to the lowest floor of the house and to an interior room such as a hallway, pantry or closet. At school go the to inner hallways away from windows, preferably on the lowest level. Stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums and cafeterias where there is a large roof span.

Emergency Management officials recommend the following safety tips:

* Develop a family emergency plan so each member knows what to do, where to go and who to call during an emergency.

* If thunder roars, go indoors. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.

* Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room away from windows.

* Know the terms: Watch means severe weather is possible. Warning means severe weather is occurring and you should take shelter immediately.

* Assemble an emergency supply kit for use at home or in your vehicle. Make sure to include a three-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water.

* If driving when a tornado occurs, leave your vehicle immediately to seek shelter in a safe structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle and do not stop under an overpass or bridge. If no shelter is available, take cover in a low-lying, flat area.

For more information, visit www.weather.gov /rah/2018ncswpw.