Today, Governor Pat McCrory signed a proclamation declaring March 3-9 Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina, cautioning North Carolinians to be on the lookout for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms as spring approaches. The proclamation recommends that families have safety plans for home, work or school so they can respond quickly when tornados or severe storms threaten.
"We've seen how quickly these storms can strike and how dangerous they can be," Governor McCrory said. "We've been lucky so far this year, but we can't let our guard down. That is why it is so critical to have emergency plans in place."
McCrory said county and state emergency managers are ready to respond to any disaster, but he cautioned that the first line of defense is at home and people should take time now to prepare. The governor urged North Carolinians to discuss and rehearse family emergency plans so that when the National Weather Service issues a storm warning in their area, everyone can act quickly and take shelter calmly.
Schools and government buildings statewide will hold tornado drills Wednesday, March 6, at 9:30 a.m. to rehearse their emergency plans.
In 2012, the National Weather Service issued 60 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 21 tornadoes that injured 22 people. Combined, the tornadoes caused more than $19 million in damages. In addition, the NWS issued more than 1,050 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded more than 1,200 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or large hail. The severe storms killed six people and injured 46 others.
March, May and November are the deadliest months for tornadoes in the state. However, residents should be equally prepared for other forms of severe weather, too, such as lightning, floods or hail.
Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Damaging winds are equally as dangerous.
Last year tornadoes damaged scores of homes and businesses in 19 counties including: Bladen, Burke, Cabarrus, Carteret, Caldwell, Cherokee, Columbus, Dare, Hyde, Jackson, Jones, Mecklenburg, Pasquotank, Richmond, Rutherford, Swain, Washington, Wake and Wilson.
North Carolina Emergency Management recommends people use the following safety tips.
During severe weather, listen to local radio, television, a weather channel or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio for information.
Know the terms: WATCH means a tornado is possible. WARNING means a tornado has been spotted; take shelter immediately.
At home: take shelter in a basement or the lowest floor of the house in an interior room such as a hallway, pantry or closet. Stay away from windows.
In school: go to inner hallways, but stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias where there is a large roof span.
In the office: take shelter under something sturdy like a desk or a table to protect from flying debris or a collapsed roof.
Mobile homes are especially vulnerable to high winds. Residents should go to a prearranged shelter when severe weather is predicted.
In the car: drivers who see a tornado forming or approaching should leave the car immediately and take shelter in a low-lying area. Tornadoes can easily blow vehicles off a road and many people have been killed while trying to outrun a tornado.
On foot / bicycle: go to a safe place immediately to avoid falling trees, downed power lines or lightning. Inside a sturdy building is best. Lying flat in a ditch or low area may also offer protection, but beware of possible flash flooding and flying debris.
Preparation for any type of severe weather also means having a family disaster plan and an emergency supply kit assembled and in a location that is easy to access during an emergency. More information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness is available at www.ReadyNC.org and www.ncem.org.