Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Getting ready for severe thunderstorms

Matt Mackie (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Georgia runs from February 5-9, with each day focusing on a different topic to help Georgians plan for inclement conditions.

Tuesday is thunderstorm preparedness day, and it's better to start preparing early for spring and summer thunderstorms instead of waiting until they happen.

Laura Belanger with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City said, "Ahead of our peak severe weather season in the spring months, since we typically see a spring and fall severe weather season, we like to utilize this time to get people to really prepare for the severe weather that they could be seeing."

The warmer seasons commonly bring the heavy rain, gusty winds and even tornadoes that Middle Georgians know as thunderstorms. Although lightning can happen during these events, it's occurrence is not in the criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning.

"Lightning flash flooding, tornadoes, hail. Now is your opportunity to get your ready kit together, identify a safe location in the event of a tornado, and get yourself and your family prepared ahead of an emergency," said Belanger.

A thunderstorm normally lasts for a short time during the warmer months - up to 30 minutes - during the late afternoon or evening hours, although severe weather is still possible during any time of day all year long.

According to the NWS, between 1950 and 2010, damaging wind throughout north and central Georgia caused 18 deaths and 325 injuries.

The NWS suggests taking the following precautions to stay protected from severe thunderstorms:

  • Have a plan before inclement weather arrives.
  • Understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable for a storm to develop but that the threat is not immediate. A severe thunderstorm warning means that a storm has been detected and that the threat is imminent.
  • Stay updated with watch and warning developments through multiple platforms.
  • If a warning has been issued and you're inside of a building, stay in the basement or on the lowest floor.
  • If a warning has been issued and you're outside, seek shelter immediately.

Additionally, emergency kits should include flashlights, enough bottled water to last for several days and non-perishable food items.

Emergency Management Services Director of Upson County Martha McCarty said that the county wants to be able to reach as many people as possible in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

"You need a weather radio in your home, you need to be signed up for the mass notifications and by all means you need to be tuned in to your local radio and TV stations. That's who's going to give you some on the fly stuff real quick," she said.

McCarty said that the community can go to their website to sign up for texts, emails and phone calls in the case of imminent severe weather. She said that recently, EMA has been sending information across social media platforms in order to reach different demographics.

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