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Letter: Have a Tornado Plan

Today, the National Weather Service will issue a statewide tornado drill to help people prepare for the upcoming tornado season.

Last year, the United States experienced the largest tornado outbreak on record. Georgia was pummeled by 15 tornadoes April 27-28, 2011, which killed 15 people and injured 143 across the state. The most powerful twister to hit Georgia was an EF-4 storm that roared through Catoosa County, killing eight and injuring at least 30. That storm, with winds in excess of 175 mph, was one-third of a mile wide and was on the ground for 13 miles before finally dissipating in Tennessee.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in Georgia. With tornado season fast approaching, Governor Nathan Deal, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA), and NWS urge all residents to prepare now for these violent storms. To help Georgians prepare for these dangerous storms, NWS will issue a statewide tornado drill on Feb. 8, and GEMA asks that all schools, households and businesses participate in the drill. GEMA also encourages residents to get ready for tornadoes by purchasing and programming a NOAA Weather Radio.

Remember, a storm can strike suddenly and it may occur when family members are in different places. The best thing to do to protect yourself and your family is to have a plan of action before a threatening tornado develops. 

Prepare a Home Tornado Plan

  • Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.

Assemble a Ready Kit that Includes

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Non-perishable food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person per day.
  • Protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Items for infants.
  • Special items for elderly or disabled family members, such as extra eyeglasses, medications, insurance information and items for service dogs.
  • Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to restore natural gas service.)

Stay Tuned for Storm Warnings

  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts, or download the Ready Georgia mobile app.
  • Tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS are issued by NWS. Know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING means:
    • A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
    • A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately.

When a Tornado WATCH is Issued

  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for the latest weather forecasts, or download the Ready Georgia mobile app.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train.

When a Tornado WARNING is Issued

  • If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. The tornado may be approaching your area.
  • If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
  • If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head for safety.

After the Tornado Passes

  • Watch out for fallen power lines and stay out of the damaged area.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.
  • Do not use candles at any time.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Ready Georgia

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