Weather Blog: Georgia Severe Weather Preparedness Week

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(WRDW/WAGT) -- Monday: Family Preparedness

Knowing what to do and having a plan in place can be the difference between life and death during severe weather events. Whether it be for a severe thunderstorm or flooding event; you should rest easy knowing your family is prepared for the worst.
Build a Ready Kit:
Put together a Ready Kit that includes the supplies your family would need for three days. Some items to include are sufficient water, non-perishable food, medications, important documents and any other essential items. Once you’ve gathered all of these items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, seniors or family members with special needs. Add those items to your kit and start packing it today. Electricity may not be available after a major weather event, so keep a deck of cards or board games in your kit to help ease the stress of the situation.

A basic emergency kit includes the following items:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, as well as plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Know the Location of your Local Shelter:
In the event of an evacuation, have a plan on where to go. If folks plan to go to a local shelter, have the address and directions printed out and in the Ready Kit. If folks have a pet, check in advance to see if the shelter or hotel he or she plans to use is pet-friendly. Most public shelters can’t accept pets due to health regulations, so plan accordingly.
Stay Informed:
-NOAA Weather Radio: Watches and Warnings issued by National Weather Service (NWS) air on these radios.
-Television Stations: Local or national news stations monitor and broadcast weather alerts.
-AM/FM Radio: Radio stations are required to air Emergency Alert System messages.
-Smartphone Applications: Numerous free and paid smartphone applications have been created to notify the public of severe weather. Some of these applications use GPS tracking on the phone and will notify you of severe weather warnings based on your location. Ready Georgia’s free app provides severe weather alerts and also gives folks mobile access to your emergency plan and other preparedness resources.
-Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA): WEA are emergency messages sent by governments authorities through your mobile carrier. The alert system does not require you to download an app or subscribe to a service. The WEA message will usually provide the category and time, the agency issuing the alert and what action you should take.

Tuesday: Thunderstorm Safety

Thunderstorms are a common severe weather hazard across the Central Savannah River Area, especially during the spring and summer months. Not all thunderstorms are severe. In order for a thunderstorm to be severe, it must either have 58 mph or greater winds, 1" diameter hail (quarter size) or larger, or it is rotating and could produce a tornado.

Damaging wind is the most common type of severe weather across north and central Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. Damaging winds are common during the summer with 'pop-up' thunderstorms. Most summer storms are created by intense updrafts that can lead to downbursts from intense heavy rainfall.

Hail is also a dangerous severe weather hazard found in thunderstorms with strong updrafts. Hail in Georgia is most common during April and May. It is rare to see hail over 2" in Georgia, but it does happen. The largest hail stone ever recorded in Georgia was 4.5" in diameter, the size of a softball!

The best way to stay safe from severe thunderstorms is staying informed! Watch the weather daily to see if we are at risk for severe weather that day. Also, know the difference between a watch and a warning.
According to the National Weather Service, when it is a severe weather watch, its best to be prepared! Severe weather is possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe weather warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
Types of watches include: Flood Watch, Severe Thunderstorm Watch, Tornado Watch

So what happens when a severe weather warning is issued? That means it's time to take action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by doppler radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.
Types of warnings include: Flood Warning, Severe Thunderstorm Warning, Tornado Warning
If a warning is issued, make sure to take shelter in a sturdy building in case of high winds, flood waters, hail, and even tornadoes. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county).

All severe weather events should be taken seriously, whether it might be a watch or a warning. By knowing when a severe weather watch or warning impacts where you live, you can make sure you and your family are protected.
Download the News 12 On Your Side Weather app and customize your severe weather alerts, so you'll know exactly when a watch or warning is issued for your neighborhood. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, just search "WRDW On Your Side Weather".

If you're driving and a severe storm with hail and damaging wind is heading your way, pull over to a gas station with a protective awning or find a garage to protect yourself and car from hail damage. ​Never park underneath overpasses during severe weather. Debris is funneled into overpasses and makes it very unsafe for anyone to be during a storm. If you are outside, find a sturdy structure immediately. If you do not have a sturdy structure to seek shelter in, find the lowest possible location and cover your head. Do not stay underneath trees because they act like lightning rods during thunderstorms.

Wednesday: Tornado Safety

Tornadoes can form quickly at any moment in rotating thunderstorms, called supercells. It's important to familiarize yourself with these violently rotating columns of air and create a plan for you and your family should one touch down near your home.

According to Ready.gov, tornadoes appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel. The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour, but could vary from being stationary to moving upwards of 70 miles per hour.
Peak tornado season for our area is spring and summer, however tornadoes can form at any time if conditions are favorable for them. Tornadoes are also most likely to form between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., though they can form at any time

So what should you do to prepare for a tornado?

To begin preparing, Ready.gov recommends you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
To make a family communications plan, you should understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings and make sure all household members are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials.
You should discuss family and household plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go in advance depending on the different type of disaster.
Create a paper copy of all of your family's personal information that includes phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, and medical info.
Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite. Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.
Make sure everyone in your family carries a paper copy of your family's info in his or her backpack, purse, or wallet. A copy should also be posted in a central location of your home, such as on your refrigerator.
Regularly practice your plan, have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans, and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice just like you would a fire drill.

What should I watch out for if a tornado is favorable in my area?

Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
Look for the following danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
- If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
What should I do during a tornado?

Be prepared to SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
Whether you are at home or at work, make sure you are in a sturdy building. Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the structure you're in. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. If you're in a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
Remember, put on sturdy shoes and DO NOT open windows.
If you are in a mobile home, get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
If you are outside and not in a sturdy building, there are a few possible actions you can take:
- Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
- Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
- Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms, and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

What should I not do during a tornado?

- DO NOT get under an overpass or bridge, you are safer in a low, flat location.
- NEVER try to outrun a tornado in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately if you can for safe shelter.

Thursday: Lightning Safety

Lightning is a dangerous severe weather hazard that kills people every year in the United States. Take a look at some of these eye opening stats.
-The United States averages 25,000,000 lightning strikes a year
-Most lightning deaths occur in the Summer
-Over the last 10 years, the US averaged 28 lightning deaths and 252 lightning injuries per year
-231 of the 294 people killed by lightning since 2008 have been male
-Lightning can strike 10-15 miles away from where rain is falling
-Air near lightning is heated up to 50,000°F, which is hotter than the surface of the Sun
-Odds of being struck by lightning in a year: 1/1,171,000
-Odds of being struck in your lifetime (est. 80 years): 1/14,600
-Lightning strike victims do not carry a charge. They should be helped immediately.

Lightning Safety Facts
-If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.
-Safest location is a large enclosed building.
-2nd safest location is in an enclosed metal vehicle. Convertibles are not safe.
-Stay away from tall isolated objects, like trees and towers.
​-Avoid the top of hills and open fields.
-Stay away from bodies of water.
-Check the forecast before planning a trip outdoors away from shelter.
-Don't forget about pets! Dog houses are not safe. If your dog is tied to a tree or wire runner, they can easily be struck by lightning.
Lightning Safety Indoors
-​Never use any electronic devices plugged into the wall. Lightning can travel through electrical wiring.
-Never use corded phones. Cell phones are safe to use as long as they are not plugged into the wall.
-Never take a bath or shower. Lightning can travel through plumbing pipes.
-Stay away from windows and doors.
-Stay away from concrete floors and walls.

5 Ways Lightning Strikes People
​1. Direct strike: a direct strike happens when the person becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel.
Example: You're out on Lake Thurmond during a storm and a lightning bolt directly hits you.
2. Side flash: a side flash happens when lightning hits a taller object near a person and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the person.
Example: You're hiking through the woods during a storm and lightning strikes the tree next to you and the current jumps from the tree to you.
3. Ground current: a ground current strike happens when lightning strikes an object then energy travels outward along the ground surface.
Example: You're out in a parking lot during a storm and lightning strikes the ground nearby and the current travels through the ground and shocks you.
4. Conduction: a conduction strike happens when lightning strikes a conductive surface, like metal, and energy travels through the material shocking anything that touches it.
Example: You're inside during a storm while playing on your cell phone that is plugged into the wall, lighting strikes electrical grid and it travels into your home and shocks you.
5. Streamers: a streamer is a secondary bolt that develops as the downward moving leader approaches the ground. A streamer strike happens when people are struck by a streamer bolt.
​Example: You're outside during a storm and a lightning bolt comes down and produces a streamer that hits you.

Friday: Flood Safety

Lets start with some basic terms about flooding. All definitions are courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Flash Flood vs. River Flood
Flash flooding: a rapid rise of water along a stream or low-lying urban area. Flooding begins within 6 hours, and often within 3 hours, of heavy rainfall.
River Flood: the inundation of a normally dry area caused by an increased water level in an established river.

Watch vs. Warning
Flash Flood Watch: issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding.
Flash Flood Warning: issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.
Flood Watch: issued when conditions are favorable for flooding.
Flood Warning: issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.

Flood Severity Category
Minor Flooding: minimal or no property damage, but possibly some public threat.
Moderate Flooding: some inundation of structures and roads near streams. some evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.
Major Flooding: extensive inundation of structures and roads. Significant evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.

NWS forecasters rely on data from around 10,000 streamgages across the nation to monitor river and stream heights. This data is important for accurate forecasting and issuing evacuations. Here is a list of resources for what to do before, during, and after a flood:
Before: https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood-before
During: https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood-during
After: https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood-after
The NWS also provides real time river data and forecasts for free online. Links are provided below for river observations and forecast:
River Observations: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=cae
River Forecasts: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/forecasts.php?wfo=cae
You can even get automatic alerts for your local river from the USGS. You can customize the alerts to tell you when the water reaches a certain temperature, height, flow, etc. Link is provided below.
Custom River Alerts: maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/wateralert/

Here is a list of flood prone areas around the CSRA:
Augusta
-Brunswick Avenue
-13th Street and Reynolds Street
-Wylds Road and Milledgeville Road
-Tobacco Road and Morgan Road
-Heard Avenue near Warren Street
-Wallace Street
-Warren Road
-Dugas Street and James Brown Boulevard
-Lumpkin Road and Deans Bridge Road
-Peach Orchard Road at Pepperidge Drive
-Baurle Boat Ramp (near Lock and Dam park)
-5th Street Marina

Columbia County
-Evans to Locks Road
-North Belair Road
-Evans Town Center Boulevard near Kroger and Ronald Reagan Drive

Aiken County
-Alberclaus Drive
-Goodale Landing
-River North
-Riverside Plantation