State News

NC schools, offices drill for tornadoes

Posted March 7, 2012 5:55 a.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2012 7:50 a.m. EST

— Schools and government buildings across North Carolina are holding tornado drills Wednesday with the spring storm season already bringing destruction.

Lowe's store manager Mike Hollowell urged everyone to have an emergency plan for tornadoes in place.

A tornado outbreak struck his Sanford store on April 16, 2011, ripping the steel roof off the building. More than 100 employees and customers escaped serious injury, though, hiding in the back of the building where there weren't any windows.

"It's something we had gone over and Lowe's already had set up," Hollowell said. "Our employees did a phenomenal job. They knew what the program was and got everybody to what we had designated as a safe area in our building."

The statewide rehearsal of emergency plans Wednesday comes less than a week since tornadoes ripped through western North Carolina.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a rare tornado swept across Cherokee County in the North Carolina mountains, while another struck near the Mecklenburg and Cabarrus county line.

More than 200 tornado warnings were issued for North Carolina last year, and 63 twisters touched down, more than twice the average. Twenty-six people were killed, and hundreds were hurt.

Hollowell urged people to take severe weather alerts seriously and to have an emergency plan for their home and, if caught at a store, to listen to directions from staff.

"Make sure you understand where you need to go, whether you're in a home or, in our case, a home-improvement store," he said.

Underground rooms, such as a basement, make for the best shelter during tornadoes. If you can't get to one, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Avoid windows.

In a large building such as a shopping center, go to a small reinforced area within the building, such as a restroom. Avoid areas with large roofs, which often collapse under the stress of a tornado or downburst winds.

Hollowell said he'll be paying even more attention to weather alerts this year.

"Every second does count, so any kind of response, any kind of alert, any kind of anything to give us a little extra minute, we'll definitely make sure we're of this year," he said.