Raleigh, N.C. — Sunday marked the beginning of a seven-day statewide campaign to raise awareness of tornadoes and other severe weather in North Carolina.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a proclamation last month declaring March 3 through March 9 "Severe Weather Awareness Week," cautioning residents to be on the lookout for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms as spring approaches.
As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, schools and government buildings across the state will hold tornado drills at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
North Carolina is no stranger to tornadoes.
More than 24 touched down dozens of times in 33 counties on April 16, 2011, killing 24 people and damaging and destroying thousands of homes. Five hit in the early-morning hours on Nov. 15, 2008, killing several people in Wilson and Johnston counties. An F-4 tornado struck Raleigh in 1988, killing four people.
"We've seen how quickly these storms can strike and how dangerous they can be," 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 that people should take time now to prepare.
State emergency officials recommend that families have safety plans for home, work or school and discuss and rehearse the plans when the National Weather Service issues a storm warning in their area.
Last year, 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 National Weather Service issued more than 1,050 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded more than 1,200 incidents of severe thunderstorms with either damaging winds or large hail or both. The severe storms killed six people and injured 46 others.
March, May and November are the deadliest months for tornadoes in the state, but residents should be equally prepared for other forms of severe weather, too, such as lightning, floods or hail.
North Carolina Emergency Management recommends 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. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted and that shelter should be taken 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 rooms where there is a large roof span, such as gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias.
- In the office, take shelter under something sturdy, such as 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 or 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 is available at www.ReadyNC.org.