Gov. Roy Cooper, on Monday, declared March 4th through the 10th Severe Weather Preparedness Week and urged North Carolinians to prepare and practice safety plans in case severe weather strikes.
Cooper said that as we enter the peak active season for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms that are common in the state it is a good time to remind citizens that they should have a plan in place for these events.
“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.”
Cooper said that schools and government buildings across the state would hold tornado drills this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. to practice their emergency plans and test messages will be broadcast on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios and the Emergency Alert System.
“Taking the time to practice what you’ll do when severe weather strikes can help save lives,” Cooper said. “I urge everyone to participate in the statewide tornado drill.”
Last year the National Weather Service (NWS) issued 85 tornado warnings for the state and 30 verified tornados were recorded in the state.
There were also 57 flash flood warnings issued in the state and 104 recorded floods or flash flood events.
A flood is described by the NWS as a flow of water onto normally dry land and may last for days or weeks whereas a flash flood is defined as “a flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than six hours.”
The defining difference being that a flash flood comes on faster and is much harder to be prepared for because of the short time-frame between the rain event, or dam or levee breaking, and the flooding.
The NWS also issued 561 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded 548 severe wind events in the state last year.
Numerous severe storms, flash flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes caused severe damage and loss of life, Cooper said.
Tornadoes form during severe thunderstorms when winds change direction and increase in speed moving in a cyclone pattern that can twist and rip trees out of the ground as well as destroying structures and property.
These storms can produce large hail and damaging winds that can reach 300 miles per hour.
A tornado can develop rapidly with little warning, so having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly, Cooper said.
Cooper advised developing a family emergency plan so, in an emergency, each member knows what to do, where to go and who to call during an emergency.
Emergency Management officials recommend the following safety tips:
· 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 3-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.