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Preparation is the key for severe weather

Posted: February 3, 2013 - 1:02am

When it comes to weather, it always seems to be “feast or famine.”

Not long after last summer’s extreme drought and record heat wave, the rain came down in buckets in early August. The rainfall total for two days was 11 inches, most of which fell within a very short time, causing many areas to flood.

That wasn’t all.

There were 32 severe weather watches and warnings issued for Columbia County in 2012, including tornado watches. Many of these storms produced pea- to golf-ball size hail, downed trees and power lines, and had strong winds that blew yard debris from street to street.

It was a banner year for vehicle-ding and roof-repair businesses.

While these events caused hardship for many here locally, we only need to look at Superstorm Sandy to know that could be us one day. Natural disasters are very unforgiving.

The key is being as ready as you can be. In advance of such a disaster, have you done everything you should do to protect your family?

To help our citizens prepare for these events, the week of Feb. 4-9 has been designated as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia.

We will feature daily topics on family disaster preparedness, NOAA alert radios, thunderstorm safety, tornado safety, lightning safety and flooding.

A statewide tornado drill will be conducted at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6. We encourage all citizens, schools, businesses, government offices, day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, etc., to take this opportunity to test and refine your preparedness actions by participating in the drill.

For drill purposes, a tornado watch will be simulated during the early morning hours. At 9 a.m., the National Weather Service will issue a routine weekly test on NOAA Alert Radio. This will serve as the tornado warning to let you know that it is time to proceed to your “safe area” for shelter. Once you are certain that everyone is in the safe area, you can give the all clear and resume normal activities.

A special highlight of the week will be the second annual “Weatherfest” from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 9 in the Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center.

The “2013 Weatherfest” will feature a special behind-the-scenes look at an on-air StormTeam12 Weathercast, a “Storm Spotter” training session conducted by the National Weather Service and Columbia County EMA will provide preparedness information pertaining to the local area, as well as a tour of the Emergency Operations Center.

Registration for the event is full, but you can get on the waiting list by calling (706) 868-3303 or emailing emergencymanagement@columbiacountyga.gov.

When disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed. Below are some ways you can start preparing now.

1. Locate the safest room in your home for your family to seek shelter during severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. A basement is the best place to seek safety, but lacking that, a small, windowless room or closet on the lowest level is recommended.

2. Purchase a NOAA Alert Radio so that you can be alerted to severe weather warnings night or day, even if you lose power and phones.

3. If someone in your family relies on electrical medical equipment, be sure to have enough back-up battery support for three days without power.

4. Keep enough food and water in your home to last your family for at least three days. Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day, for a three-day period.

5. Have a battery-operated radio and flashlights with extra batteries on hand at all times.

6. Pick two meeting places for your family: a spot right outside your home for an emergency such as a fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.

7. Check your homeowner’s insurance and make sure you have property loss or damage coverage for all types of natural disasters.

8. Learn disaster safety rules.

9. Sign up with us for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. This free training will provide invaluable information on keeping your family safe.

For more information on disaster preparedness and how to keep your family safe, contact the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division at (706) 868-3303 or you can email us at emergencymanagement@columbiacountyga.gov.

(Pam Tucker is director of the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division.)

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