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Georgia Severe Weather Preparedness Week
Thunderstorm Safety

Thunderstorm Winds Knock Down TreeThunderstorms are a common occurrence in Georgia, especially during the spring and summer months. Thunderstorms can produce gusty winds, hail and even tornadoes, but in particular a severe thunderstorm can produce hail of 1” or larger (size of a quarter) and/or 58 mph (50 knots) winds or greater. Notice that lightning is not in the criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning. Typically, a severe thunderstorm lasts about 30 minutes and occurs in the afternoon and evening hours. However, severe weather is possible any time of the day and any time of the year. Supercells, a special class of thunderstorms, are particularly violent and can last for several hours. Tornadoes are often produced from these supercell thunderstorms. This type of thunderstorm is most common in the spring.

Damaging wind is the most common type of severe weather across north and central Georgia. These events can occur any time of the year, but peak in July when downbursts from pulse thunderstorms are common. Based on data from 1950-2010, 18 fatalities and 325 injuries were caused by damaging wind across north and central Georgia. Similar to damaging wind events, hail can occur in any month across north and central Georgia, however, hail events peak in May. April comes in a close second for hail events. Although most hail is between 1” and 2” in diameter in Georgia, 4.5” (softball sized) hail has been recorded across north Georgia four times. Check Out this Video on Thunderstorms Safety


How can you protect yourself and your family from severe thunderstorms?

  • The best thing to do is to have a plan of action in place before threatening weather develops. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a severe thunderstorm has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
  • Make sure to get watch and warning information from multiple platforms. This will help ensure you receive life-saving weather information even if one method fails. NOAA Weather Radio, televisions, radios, cell phone alerts and sirens are all different ways to receive watches and warnings and each has its own benefits.
  • If severe weather is imminent, and you are inside, move to a shelter such as a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of the building. It’s best to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Remember, even straight line winds from a severe thunderstorm can cause damage equal in magnitude to a tornado.
  • If you are caught outside during any thunderstorm, seek shelter in a sturdy structure.


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Georgia Severe Weather Preparedness Week
Tornado Safety

TornadoTornadoes are violently rotating columns of air, extending from the thunderstorm that is in contact with the ground. Tornadoes can vary in shape, size and intensity. Most tornadoes are weak, lasting a few minutes and producing winds of less than 100 mph. However, a few tornadoes are strong or even violent. These tornadoes last from 20 minutes to over an hour and can produce winds of between 100 and 300 mph.

Click here for the recent January 21-22, 2017 Tornado Outbreak that affected much of central and southern Georgia.


All of Georgia is prone to tornadoes, as shown in this map depicting Georgia tornadoes from 1950-2014. The average number of days with reported tornadoes is 6 in Georgia. Tornadoes have been reported throughout the year, but are most likely to occur from March to May, with the peak in April. Tornadoes are also most likely in the mid afternoon to early evening time frame, but can occur any time of the day or night. 37 percent of all tornadoes are classified as strong or violent (EF2 or greater on the Enhanced Fujita Scale), and these tornadoes are most likely to occur in the month of April. Although Georgia has seen a few EF-4 tornadoes, with the most recent one on April 27, 2011 in Catoosa County, the state has never recorded an EF-5 tornado. In Georgia, tornadoes are often hard to see as they are wrapped in areas of rain and hail. The hilly terrain can also limit your ability to see a tornado. Check out this video on Tonado Safety.





What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Tornado Damage
  • The best thing to do is to have a plan of action in place before threatening weather develops. The Red Cross has a Tornado Safety Checklist available to help you make your plan.
  • Know what the difference is between a watch and warning. A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
  • Know your area (including the name of your county) so you can track storms via weather radio, local TV, radio reports or the internet. Make sure you have battery backup. Monitor area forecasts to know if threatening weather is possible when you are planning outdoor activities.
  • If a tornado is imminent and you are in a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter on the lowest floor, such as a basement, or a small interior room closet, bathroom or hallway and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Remember to always put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. If you are caught outside or in a vehicle lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression, but be aware of possible flooding, and cover your head with your hands.
  • Mobile homes are not a safe place to be during severe weather. You should leave a mobile home and go the lowest floor of sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter.
Additional information on tornadoes and safety precautions can be found in "Tornadoes - Nature's Most Violet Storms."



                    Georgia Severe Weather Preparedness Week
Family Preparedness

Families should be prepared for any type of hazard that could affect their area. The best way to do this is to develop a family disaster plan. View this video and the steps below to make you sure and your family are prepared for an emergency. Remember to also inquire about emergency plans at work and school.


Get a Kit
  • This kit is a group of items you may need during a disaster. By having these items grouped together, you can quickly grab your kit and leave if an evacuation is ordered for your area.
  • Make sure to have food and water for each person and your pets for at least 72 hours. Sometimes emergency workers can not reach you immediately and you'll need to survive on your own.
  • Keep in mind that basic services such as electricity and water may not be available. Make sure that your kit includes items that will help you manage through these lose of services.
  • Disasters can be hard on adults and children - make sure to include some comforting items in your kit, whether it is a teddy bear or a game for a child or comfort/stress foods for adults.
  • Visit FEMA at Ready.gov for a downloadable emergency supply kit checklist.

Make a plan
  • Learn what hazards affect your area. Contact the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, your local emergency management office, or a local Red Cross chapter to learn which hazards can affect you.
  • Make sure you know what to do when severe weather strikes.
  • If you get separated from family, make sure you have a place to meet or have a out-of-town contact to let know you are ok.
  • You can fill out your Family Emergency Plan through Ready.gov.
  • Involve children in the plan making process. See how Sesame Street can help kids be ready for a disaster!
  • Practice your plan.

Be informed - get the warning (NOAA Weather Radio + Wireless Emergency Alerts)
  • Make sure that you get watches, warnings and advisories when severe weather strikes. These are just a few ways in which to get watches, warnings and advisories - remember it's important to receive alerts and warnings multiple ways.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio. Make sure it's plugged in, turned on, and have extra batteries just in case the power goes out. A key benefit of NOAA Weather Radio is it will alert you while you are sleeping so you can take shelter.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are a nationwide text emergency alert system which will send an automated alert (text) to your mobile device when significant weather threatens (i.e. Tornado Warning, Flash Flood Warning, etc.)
  • Check with your local emergency manager to see if there are sirens in your area. Learn the policy specific to your area and remember that sirens are an outdoor warning system and are not designed to be heard indoors. 
  • Local television and radio stations also broadcast (scroll) severe weather watches and warnings. These scrolls are not controlled by the NWS.


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