Raleigh, N.C. - Governor Pat McCrory has declared March 1-7 Severe Weather Preparedness Week in North Carolina, cautioning North Carolinians to practice how to be safe when thunderstorms and tornadoes threaten. While damaging storms and tornadoes can occur any time of the year, March through May is peak tornado season for the state.
“Severe thunderstorms can strike quickly and spawn dangerous winds and tornadoes,” Governor McCrory said. “Despite the snow, sleet and freezing rain over the past few weeks, we are now entering the peak severe storm season, and we need to prepare and practice what to do when severe weather occurs. It’s critical to have emergency plans in place, put together an emergency supply kit and listen for weather alerts.”
Schools and government buildings statewide will hold tornado drills Wednesday, March 4, at 9:30 a.m. to practice their emergency plans. Test messages will be broadcast on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios and the Emergency Alert System. All North Carolinians are encouraged to participate in the drill.
In 2014, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued 81 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 36 tornadoes that killed one and injured 34 people. Combined, the tornadoes caused more than $22 million in damages. In addition, the NWS issued more than 632 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded more than 686 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or large hail. The severe storms killed three people, injured seven others and caused $3.5 million in damages.
While spring and late fall are typically peak tornado season, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can happen at any time of the year.
Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Damaging winds are equally as dangerous.
Last April, nine tornadoes touched down in one day in Beaufort, Bertie, Chowan, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Pitt counties, killing an 11-month old child and injuring 28 others. More than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Emergency Management officials recommend having a weather radio that broadcasts NWS alerts when severe weather threatens. Many North Carolina tornado fatalities have occurred at night when people are asleep and less likely to receive a warning without a weather radio.
Emergency officials recommend people use the following safety tips:
- Know the terms: WATCH means a tornado is possible. WARNING means a tornado has been spotted; take shelter immediately.
- Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room and away from windows, and go there immediately if you hear or see a tornado.
- If driving, you should leave your vehicle immediately to seek safety in an adequate structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle, and do not stop under an overpass or a bridge.
- If you are outdoors, and there is no shelter available, take cover in a low-lying flat area. Watch out for flying debris.
- Following a storm, wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves and gloves when walking on or near debris, and be aware of exposed nails and broken glass.
- Be aware of damaged power or gas lines and electrical systems that may cause fires, electrocution or explosions.