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GOV. EASLEY DECLARES MARCH 12-18 SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK

Tornado Drills in Schools and Government Buildings to be Held March 15

RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley has declared March 12-18 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina and designated Wednesday, March 15, as the day for tornado drills in schools and government buildings statewide.

“Tornadoes can strike with little or no warning, leaving only moments to make life-or-death decisions,” said Easley. “I ask everyone to take the time to put together and rehearse your family emergency plans, so that when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning in your area, you can act quickly and take shelter.”

Last year, the National Weather Service issued 57 tornado warnings and recorded more than 25 tornadoes in North Carolina. Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air is lifted in advance of cold fronts. Large hail and strong winds often accompany the kind of thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes. The National Weather Center also issued 116 flash flood warnings and recorded more than 400 incidents of severe thunderstorms with winds of 60 miles per hour, some with large hail.

Experts with the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety say that the safest place during a tornado is underground in a basement or a storm cellar. If there is no basement, schoolchildren should go to inner hallways, and stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias where there is a large expanse of roof. Office workers should take shelter under something sturdy like a desk or a table to be protected from flying debris or a collapsed roof. People who are at home should go to the lowest floor of the house and to an interior room, a hallway or closet and stay away from windows.

“Listen to local radio, television, a weather channel or a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio for information on severe weather,” said H. Douglas Hoell, director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management. “We also recommend that your emergency plan include instructions on what to do if you are traveling in a car.”

Drivers who see a tornado forming or approaching should leave the car immediately and take shelter in a low lying area, such as a ditch. A tornado can easily blow a car off a road. People in mobile homes are especially vulnerable to damage from high winds and should go to a prearranged shelter when severe weather is predicted.

Those who are on foot or on a bicycle could encounter falling trees, power lines, or lightning and they should go to a safe place immediately. The basement of a sturdy building is best, but lying flat in a ditch or low-lying area may be all that is available. In this case, residents must beware of flash flooding.

“If a tornado watch is issued, it means that a tornado is possible, and if a tornado warning is issued, it means that a tornado has actually been spotted, or is strongly indicated on radar. Those in the warning area should immediately go to a safe shelter,” said Hoell.

More information, including a copy of the governor's proclamation and a tornado fact sheet, is available at www.nccrimecontrol.org/severeweather.

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