While last week's snowstorm may still be on people's minds, tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. Last January, severe storms spawned a powerful EF-3 tornado, which tore across Bartow, Fannin, Gilmer and Gordon counties, killing one man and damaging hundreds of homes and businesses. Less than two months later, on March 18, 2013, EF-1 and 2 tornadoes were confirmed in Burke, Meriwether and Pike counties. One person was killed in these storms.
"The best thing to do to protect yourself and your family is to have a plan of action before a threatening tornado develops," said Rockdale County Emergency Management Agency Director Dan Morgan.
To practice preparing for storms and to test new sirens during Severe Weather Awareness Week, Rockdale County Fire and Rescue and Rockdale first responder agencies will be conducting a tornado drill Thursday, Feb. 6, 1 p.m. - 6 p.m.
"This is nothing more than us testing out equipment and citizens should not be alarmed," said RCFR spokesperson Chris Kozikowski.
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can vary in shape, size and intensity. Most tornadoes are weak, lasting a few minutes and producing winds of less than 100 mph. However, a few tornadoes are strong or even violent. These tornadoes last from 20 minutes to more than an hour and can produce wind speeds higher than 166 mph.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare at home in case of a tornado:
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 windowless 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 Disaster Supplies Kit Containing
• First aid kit and essential medications.
• Canned 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.
• Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
• 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
• Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio and television stations, or download the Ready Georgia app for updated storm information.
• Know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING means:
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.