Huddled against a wall, they tucked their arms, heads and legs in and held on tight.
"They're doing an excellent job!" one teacher exclaimed.
Pupils at all Columbia County schools, including these at North Harlem Elementary, participated in a tornado drill Wednesday as part of a state exercise.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Then, after only a few minutes, the all-clear was given.
"OK, teachers; you may return to your classroom," a voice said over the intercom at North Harlem Elementary School. "Good job!"
The statewide tornado exercise took place at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at all Columbia County schools. The drill was also conducted in businesses and residential areas to prepare residents for three upcoming months when severe weather is likely - March, April and May.
After watching several dozen pupils follow the drill in one of her school's hallways, Dr. Margie Hamilton, the assistant principal at North Harlem Elementary, said she was impressed.
"They were perfect," she said. "They were great."
Hamilton said her school, with about 600 pupils, is involved in the drill each year. Thinking back to her own childhood, Hamilton said, she understands the importance of early preparation when it comes to natural disasters.
"I don't take any natural disaster for granted," she said. "When I was young, I was in an earthquake in Alaska. I saw the devastation from the eyes of a 4-year-old."
Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, said the drill went well countywide.
"This year, we got a lot of report forms back," she said. "And everybody's saying it went great.
"It's our best one. It seems like every year we say that, but we do get better and better as far as participation level and as far as people knowing what to do."
In preparation for bad weather, the Columbia County Recreation Department has coordinated with the county's emergency management agency and the National Weather Service to purchase portable lightning and storm detectors.
The early-warning system will alert participants and spectators at outdoor sporting events of approaching inclement weather. The detectors will be able to identify lightning as far away as 40 miles.
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