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Today is Day 3 of Severe Weather Preparedness Week and the topic is Tornado Safety! Do you know what to do during a tornado? Take a few minutes today to read over some potentially life-saving tips!
Tornadoes are formed by intense rotating columns of wind typically generated during a severe thunderstorm. They can vary in strength and duration, but most tornadoes last for a few minutes and have winds less than 100 mph. Tornadoes are most likely to appear from March to May with the peak season occurring in April, but tornadoes have been reported outside of this period. For example, we saw two devastating tornadoes in Albany, Georgia in January 2017. Tornadoes should not be underestimated in the amount of damage and harm that they can cause. In 2017, Chatham County saw a high number of tornado occurrences that caused significant damage to the areas where it touched down. In addition, in 2017, Georgia was the most active state in the country for tornadoes; yes, we beat out Tornado Alley! Be prepared to act quickly if there is a possibility for a tornado in our area and make sure everyone in your family knows what your plan is.
The first step in being prepared is to ensure that you have a reliable access to alerts and updates about any severe weather events that may occur in our area. This could be purchasing a NOAA weather radio and keeping one in your home and work. Another available resource is social media, Facebook and Twitter, where local news stations and CEMA frequently post current updates and warnings. Severe weather apps are also available and can be used to track weather events, tornado alerts, road closures, and other emergency events for our area.
Once you have a system in place to alert you of any severe weather updates, make sure you are aware of the terminology and know the difference between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning. A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop, but there is no imminent threat. A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
Once a tornado warning has been announced, you will need to take shelter immediately in the lowest point of your home or nearby building. This could be a basement, which will likely provide the most protection, but you may also shelter in an interior room or hallway that has no windows or heavy objects hanging from the wall. If you are outside when you hear the alert for an imminent tornado event, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. According to Ready.gov<https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes>, some possible actions include: leave your vehicle and find a ditch or depression that you can lie flat in and cover your head from any debris; immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter; take cover in a stationary vehicle, put a seatbelt on and cover your head with your arms and a cushion.
The best way to prepare for the upcoming tornado season is to develop a plan of action for where you will shelter, how to keep informed of the storms progress, and practicing this plan with family, neighbors, and your coworkers.
Lastly, in honor of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, the National Weather Service will be conducting a statewide Tornado Drill on Friday, February 9th, at 9AM. Make plans now to participate!