North Georgia tornado presses importance of weather preparednessBy JOHN A. WINTERS
Gov. Nathan Deal has designed next week as Severe Weather Awareness Week throughout Georgia.
According to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, weather-related events have killed at least 352 people throughout Georgia, including two in 2012 and another in this week’s storm.
Authorities believe the tornado swelled to 900 yards wide — more than four times the width of the Georgia Dome — as it tore across northwest Georgia for nearly 22 miles, according to Associated Press. The Wednesday twister had an estimated peak wind speed of 160 mph when it slammed into Adairsville, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, National Weather Service officials said.
Wednesday’s storms in northwest Georgia caused an estimated $75 million in insured losses, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said. “That figure will rise as new claims are reported,” Hudgens said in a statement.
Crews that toured the destruction Thursday rated the tornado, which destroyed more than 60 buildings in Bartow and Gordon counties, as a strong EF3 twister. The heaviest damage was found at the Daiki Corp. manufacturing plant in Adairsville, where the 160 mph winds struck, the National Weather Service reported. That is just shy of an EF4 tornado, which has winds of 166 mph and above. The tornado killed an Adairsville man and injured 17 people.
That same storm knocked down trees and power lines in Coweta County, and elementary students were kept at school about 30 minutes later than usual because of hazardous road conditions at dismissal time.
GEMA is encouraging residents to take a few minutes each day next week to prepare for unexpected events, learn about weather threats and practice emergency response procedures.
“In recent years, Georgia has experienced record flooding, tornadoes and wildfires,” said Charley English, director of GEMA. “Urbanization and population growth increase the potential for these storms to impact more people and structures, so I encourage our citizens to become more aware of severe weather safety measures and to participate in the various awareness programs during Severe Weather Awareness Week.”
GEMA’s Ready Georgia program offers tools residents can use to create emergency supply kits, create a communications plan and stay informed.
An interactive website to help Georgia families prepare is at http://ready.ga.gov .
“Georgia is susceptible to nearly every type of natural disaster. Being prepared is the best defense against the unexpected, so Georgians should use this opportunity to take simple, but potentially life-saving emergency preparedness steps,” said English. “Tornadoes, storms and floods can devastate communities, but the damage can be minimized if we’re prepared.”
Coweta County Emergency Management Agency Director Jay Jones notes, “One of the primary concerns of winter weather is its ability to knock out heat, power and communications services. Preparation is inexpensive and easy, and can help you avoid potentially life-threatening situations.”
Among the tips recommended are:
• Prepare a ready kit of emergency supplies for your home. Include at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food, water, a flashlight with extra batteries, a NOAA Weather Radio, adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm, as well as additional supplies for the unique needs of your family, such as medications.
• Keep an extra Ready kit in the trunk of your car. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding an ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
• Ensure proper home insulation by placing weather stripping around doors and windows, allowing faucets to drip during cold weather to prevent freezing and opening cabinet doors to let heat reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
• Winterize your vehicle and keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent your fuel line from freezing.
• Plan to stay inside, if necessary, for at least three days. If trapped outside during severe winter weather, try to stay dry, cover all body parts, and periodically move limbs to keep blood circulating and, if possible, build a fire.
• Winter storms are often accompanied by power outages. Use flashlights during power outages instead of candles to prevent the risk of fire, and keep plenty of extra batteries on-hand.
• Never bring portable generators, camp stoves and grills into your home; they should only be used outside. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your home’s windows, doors and vents to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
• People who depend of electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
• Create an emergency communications plan so family members will know who to contact if separated during a storm. Designate at least one out-of-town contact that all family members can call.
• Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio and monitor commercial radio, television and the Internet to stay informed of winter weather.
In addition, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens offered other tips:
• While a standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers damage from high winds and tornadoes, it does not cover damage from flooding. A separate policy must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program, and can only be purchased if your community participates in the national program. However, a standard mobile home policy can cover damage caused by floods. Check your policy.
• Make a list of all valuables, furniture, electronics, etc., and photograph or videotape your possessions. Keep copies of the list, photographs and videotape in a safe place outside your home. If your home is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster, it may be difficult for you to tell your insurance agent what you lost without proof.
• Keep your insurance policy numbers and your agent’s phone number in a safe place as well.
• If disaster strikes, contact your agent or insurance company immediately.
• Protect your property from further damage. For example, if your roof is damaged, cover it with a tarp to prevent water damage from subsequent rain. Most policies will not cover such damage.
• Make sure you understand the difference between actual cash value (ACV) and replacement cost coverage for your contents, and obtain the coverage that best suits your needs. An ACV policy replaces contents at cost minus depreciation. If you have replacement cost coverage, your contents will be replaced at today’s prices.