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New Weather Radio Sends the Triangle into a Whirl

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GARNER — Doppler radar is just one of the many new tools to provide early warning of severe weather.

The advanced technology translates into precious time during tornado season.

The First Church of Nazarene in Garner has done a lot of repairs since a tornado hit on March 20. However, blue tarps still cover three holes in the roof, and the day care center will probably be demolished.

This destruction proves that few structures located in the path of a twister can survive without damage. However, there are several options for a person, in order to escape injury.

Thomas Babb is the Raleigh area coordinator for SKYWARN, which is a group of volunteer ham radio operators who track tornadoes and get the warnings out. With half of the tornado season to go, Babb suggest one option that could prove life saving.

"Own a weather alert radio." Babb said. "Because at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning when we may be sleeping, the radio alert would be a real good way to save lives. I know that I have one in my home."

Standard alert radios have been out for years, but a new system is available called SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding).

This system allows an owner to designate the specific area that the radio will monitor, and the warning will only sound if dangerous weather approaches that region.

Many stores have sold out of the SAME radios, and are taking orders. One of the more popular models sells for about $80.

The March tornadoes left many North Carolinians with the perception that this year is one of the states worst for storms. Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Raleigh said, that fact is simply a perception.

The year's activity has already topped 1997's 11 tornadoes, but 1998 North Carolina statistics do not even come close to the 51 in 1996.

"The tornadoes are hitting main street." George Lemons with the National Weather Service said. "If you have a tornado go through the woods and knock down a few trees one or two mobile homes, it get a little coverage and it's not a big deal. If it goes down main street, it's a big deal."

Over the past three years, April is not even the busiest month for tornadoes, with an average of 114.

There have been an average of 188 tornadoes in June, while May usually gets around 183. However, since 1995, May has spawned more deadly tornadoes than any other month.