Severe Weather Awareness Week continues

by Wes Mayer

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia, and although Coweta County may not be experiencing the severe weather predicted last week, Cowetans can still take the week to learn how to act in various emergency situations.

The week is coordinated by the National Weather Service, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and emergency management agencies all throughout Georgia. Each day, the agencies cover a different topic — Monday was Family Preparedness/National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Radio day, Tuesday emphasized thunderstorm safety, Wednesday was focusing on tornado safety, Today on lighting safety and Friday on flood safety.

Fortunately, forecasters on Tuesday were no longer predicting severe thunderstorms with the possibility of high winds and even tornadoes in Coweta County, said Jay Jones, director of Coweta County Emergency Management. Severe weather has been expected to roll through the county Tuesday night and Wednesday, but it turned out to be just a rain event.

A statewide tornado drill was also scheduled for Wednesday, Jones said, but due to the earlier forecast for possible severe weather, the drill has been postponed until Friday at 9 a.m.

Residents and businesses in Newnan heard the regular first Wednesday testing of the weather warning sirens.

For the Severe Awareness Week, emergency agencies are urging Georgians to visit the Ready Georgia website, www.ready.ga.gov . The website is designed to help residents and families prepare for various emergency situations by building emergency kits filled with necessities, and to make a plan with their families on how to find each other and be prepared for whatever type of severe weather Georgia may experience.

Wednesday’s topic was tornado safety. According to the National Weather Service, tornadoes are the number one severe weather-related killer in Georgia. Last January, a tornado struck Bartow, Fannin, Gilmer and Gordon counties and one man was killed. Last March, two tornadoes struck Burke, Meriwether and Pike counties, killing another man.

“The best thing to do to protect yourself and your family is to have a plan of action before a threatening tornado develops,” Jones said.

When a tornado watch is issued, the emergency agencies urge people to tune in to their NOAA weather radios or other local radio and television stations, and stay alert for the sound of an approaching tornado — the sound commonly compared to a freight train. If a warning is issued, people should move to a safe place away from glass and flying objects, hurry to a basement or sturdy building, and immediately exit a vehicle or mobile home. As a last resort, lie down in a ditch or low-lying area.

Even after a tornado passes, the area may not be safe. People should still watch out for power lines and damaged areas, and should inspect their home for damage — with a flashlight, not a candle. People should continue to listen to the radio for instructions as well.

Thursday’s topic is lightning safety, a danger which kills about 55 Americans every year, including one Georgian last year.

“Always stay alert for signs of approaching thunderstorms,” Jones said. “Lightning is nature’s warning signal that a thunderstorm is in its most violent state and that you should seek shelter immediately.”

According to Jones, if you are able to hear thunder, you have the potential to be struck by lightning. Thunderstorms are often preceded by darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing winds, and residents should monitor weather radios for updates on approaching storms.

During a thunderstorm, residents should find shelter in a building or car with the windows closed. If they are in the woods, it is best to find shelter under shorter trees. If in a boat or swimming, people should get to land immediately. If absolutely no shelter is available, people should make themselves the smallest targets possible — squatting low to the ground with their head between their legs, not lying flat on the ground. If at home, residents should unplug appliances and turn off their air conditioner to avoid potential power surges from lightning.

If someone is struck by lightning, they can be immediately treated because they carry no electrical charge, according to the release. Bystanders should contact 911 immediately, and any trained person should begin to perform CPR if the victim has stopped breathing. The victim may also be burned in two locations, one where the lightning entered the body and one where it left. Lightning can also damage hearing, eyesight, the nervous system and can even break bones.

Friday is flood safety and flash flood safety day.

“Neighborhoods located in low-lying areas are especially at risk for flooding,” Jones said. “Those near bodies of water or downstream from a dam are vulnerable too.”

2013 was the ninth wettest year recorded in Georgia — the fifth wettest in Atlanta, officials note. The year was the wettest for Macon with 72.91 inches of rain. The heavy rain caused flooding throughout Georgia, washing away roads and bridges and damaging homes and businesses. Floods are the second-most common natural disaster behind fires, officials note.

Concerned residents may visit www.floodsmart.gov for information on how to tell if flooding may be a problem for their home or area. If so, residents are advised to consult a professional and move their furnace, water heater and electric panel to a higher level of their home if need be.

If heavy rain has occurred in the same area for several hours, there may be a possibility of flooding, and residents should check with their weather radio or television station, according to the release. If a flood or flash flood watch is issued, flooding may be possible — if a flood or flash flood warning is issued, flooding has already occurred or may be occurring soon in the area. Evacuations may be called in these cases.

For flood watches, residents should move furniture or valuable to a higher level of their home. During watches, it is also a good idea to fill a vehicle’s gas tank in case an evacuation is called, according to the release.

With flood or flash flood warnings, if a resident believes they will be in danger, they should evacuate immediately and travel away from any river, stream, creek or storm drain. Residents should seek higher ground immediately.

Information on how to be prepared for each of these types of disasters can be found at www.ready.ga.gov .



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