Four years ago, one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in state history is only a week away. On April 27-28, 2011, Georgia was pummeled by 15 tornadoes, causing the death of 15 people and injuring 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.
With the peak of tornado season currently under way, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's Ready Georgia campaign is encouraging all residents to be informed, make a plan and build a kit for severe storms.
Here are some tips:
BEFORE A TORNADO
• A storm can strike suddenly and it may occur when family members are in different places, so develop a family communications plan.
• Make a Ready kit for at least three days of self-sufficiency. Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.
• A tornado watch means weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop.
• A tornado warning means either a tornado is occurring or expected to develop shortly in your area, and you need to take shelter immediately.
• Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning.
o Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
o If underground shelter is not available, an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible in the best option.
o In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
• Contact your local emergency management agency to learn how your community sends warnings. Some communities use sirens, others use a mass notification system, and still others depend on media to alert residents to severe storms. Make sure you have multiple ways to receive warnings.
• Listen to newscasts or download the Ready Georgia mobile app for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
• Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
o A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
o 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 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.
• Make sure you know where you would seek shelter if a tornado warning was issued.
• If you are in a mobile home, consider moving to a sturdy building (shelter). If a tornado warning is issued, you will not have much time to act.
WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED
• If you are inside, put on sturdy shoes and go to an interior room on the lowest level and protect yourself from glass and other flying objects.
• If you are outside, hurry to a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. Or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and use your arms to protect your head.
• If you are in a car, you can drive in a 90 degree angle away from the tornado; but remember, tornados can travel up to 60 mph and they do not follow roadways. If you see a tornado developing, get out of your car (or mobile home) immediately and seek safety indoors (shopping centers, churches, schools) or lie down in a low lying area such as a ditch or culvert and cover your head with your arms. DO NOT get under your car.
AFTER A TORNADO
• Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
• Remain out of damaged buildings and stay clear of downed power lines. Report downed lines to your local power company.
• If you are trained, help injured or trapped people. Check on others who may require special assistance, such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities.
To learn how to prepare for emergencies and more, visit ready.ga.gov.