Severe Weather Survival Guide


On March 1st 2007 an EF2 tornado roared through Warren and McDuffie counties going straight into the city of Thomson, GA. The National Weather Service estimated winds at 115-120mph with a width of ¼ mile and a 10 mile long path. There were some injuries but thankfully no fatalities. The tornado ripped up trees and tossed them onto homes and other buildings. Trees were ripped up and some pushed over. Others were stripped bare and looked like sticks coming out of the ground.

Tornadoes usually come from powerful and dangerous thunderstorms. A tornado looks like a rotating funnel. It extends from a thunderstorm and reaches the ground. Tornadoes can devastate a community in seconds with winds that have been known to reach 318 miles per hour. Tornado paths can be over a mile wide and stretch over 50 miles long. Tornadoes can develop with little advanced warning, so make sure you are on the lookout when a watch has been issued.

A tornado usually goes from Southwest to Northeast and can be stationary or have a forward speed of up to 70mph. Tornadoes usually occur between 3-9PM but can happen at any time. You know there's a tornado if you see debris below the funnel, however sometimes you can't see a tornado because rain conceals it.

Prepare for a Tornado

To stay ahead of the storm, tune to Storm Team 12 for the latest information. Look for dark, sometimes greenish sky, a large dark low-lying cloud, large hail, and listen for a loud roar. If you see any of these signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Our Triple Doppler 12 radar has the technology to give advance notice of most tornado activity.

Taking Shelter

The best place to be during a tornado warning is on the lowest level of a sturdy structure in the most interior room away from windows. If you see windows, you're not safe. Put as much protection between you and the outside as possible. Flying glass is dangerous so stay away from any windows. If possible pull a mattress over yourself and make yourself as low and small as possible.

If you are in a mobile home or vehicle, get out! Seek a sturdy shelter. If one cannot be found, go to a low lying area that isn't flooded and make yourself as low and flat as possible while covering your head with your hands. DO NOT go under an overpass, you are safer to lie flat in a low lying area like a ditch.

After a Tornado

Move carefully as you move out of your home because many receive injuries after the storm has passed. Downed trees and power lines are major hazards as they make your yard a danger zone. Act like all power lines are hot and all trees are unstable. Debris can be blown in your yard and this can include boards with nails, glass, and sharp metal. Walk with caution wearing protective footwear. When picking up storm debris, do not pile it near power lines.

Try not to drive through an area that has been hit by a tornado. If you have to drive use extreme caution. Do not visit disaster areas, you can be getting in the way of work crews and emergency operations.

Tornado Terms to Know

Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to Storm Team 12, NOAA Weather Radio, or commercial radio, for information.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Source: FEMA

Measuring a Storm's Destruction

The strength of tornadoes used to be measured by the Fujita Scale. Now the National Weather Service is using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale to measure tornado strength. This scale uses 28 damage indicators and each one of these indicators has a description of the typical construction of a building or structure. The scale has changed for a number of reasons, one of them is because building codes have changed over the years and structures are stronger than they used to be. The new EF scale also has many other indicators and pictures so damage assessors can better estimate wind damage. Below is a scale showing the old F-Scale on the left compared to the new EF-Scale on the right.

F Scale 3sec Wind Gusts mph EF Scale 3sec Wind Gusts mph
0 45-78 0 65-85
1 79-117 1 86-110
2 118-161 2 111-135
3 162-209 3 136-165
4 210-261 4 166-200
5 262-317 5 Over 200
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