North Carolina Severe Weather Preparedness week kicks off Sunday

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Next week is North Carolina’s annual Severe Weather Preparedness Week, running from March 6th through March 12th.

The National Weather Service and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety are teaming up to bring this severe weather safety campaign to all of North Carolina’s residents.

With warmer weather quickly approaching, now is the time to prepare for the severe weather season.

Severe weather preparedness week focuses on a different topic each day:

Sunday, March 6th Overview of the week
Monday, March 7th Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes
Tuesday, March 8th Ways to receive severe weather alerts, and information about the Statewide Tornado Drill
Wednesday, March 9th Staying safe when high winds, hail, and tornadoes strike
Thursday, March 10th Lightning safety
Friday, March 11th Flash flood safety
Saturday, March 12th Make a plan and encourage others to do the same

The National Weather Service says if each North Carolina resident would take a few moments this week to learn about severe weather safety and implement a safety plan, then we would all be better off when severe thunderstorms and tornadoes inevitably strike our state and the likelihood of injury and fatalities caused by severe weather could be minimized.

Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

A Severe Thunderstorm WATCH means Be Prepared. Stay informed and be ready to act, because severe thunderstorms are possible.

A Severe Thunderstorm WARNING means Take Action! Take shelter in a strong building, because severe weather is occurring or will occur shortly.

North Carolina experiences about 40 to 50 thunderstorm days per year.  About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe – one that produces hail at least an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or stronger, or produces a tornado.

Thunderstorms are sometimes underestimated as a serious weather threat, but they can be deadly. Strong winds can turn tree branches and ordinary loose objects into dangerous projectiles — help your community stay safe by trimming trees and picking up loose items.

Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a storm. Make sure to get everyone inside at the first sign of thunder or lightning, and keep them inside until at least 30 minutes after the last sign of thunder or lightning.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour.

Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.  Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Sometimes, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.

Ways to Receive Severe Weather Alerts

One of the keys to staying safe during the severe weather season (especially with quick moving storms) is making sure that you have a way to receive lifesaving severe weather watches and warnings.

There are many methods and tools, some of which are available with no cost or fees, that you can use to receive these important lifesaving alerts no matter where you are – at home, at school, or at work.

WWAY’s Stormtrack3 Weather app is a great source of information when severe weather strikes, providing notifications of warnings for your location.

Receiving warnings for dangerous weather events can save your life.

When your area is under a tornado warning, or if you see a tornado approaching, you should seek shelter immediately!  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

If you are in a home or small business:

Go to the basement or a small interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway without windows on the lowest level. Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible. If possible, get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table, or use a mattress to protect yourself from flying debris. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head. If available, put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect yourself from head injuries.

If you are in a large business, school, hospital, shopping center or factory:

Go to the designated shelter area. If a shelter area is not available, the best place is to go to an interior hallway on the lowest level. Stay away from the structurally weaker portions of buildings, such as windows and rooms with expansive roofs, which are more likely to collapse when tornadoes strike.

If you are in a mobile home or home on stilts:

Get out and take shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter. If there is not one nearby, take shelter in the most interior room that has no windows, such as an interior bathroom or closet

Staying Safe When High Winds, Hail, and Tornadoes Strike

While hail and straight-line winds generally do not garner the same attention or respect as tornadoes, they can be just as deadly. Hail can exceed the size of softballs and fall at speeds of over 100 mph, seriously injuring or killing anyone in its path. Straight-line winds can topple trees onto cars, houses, and power lines.

Many deaths from straight-line winds are the result of trees falling onto the person, whether they are outside, in their house, or driving in their car. Strong straight-line wind events can even destroy buildings, especially mobile homes and manufactured homes.

Lightning Safety 

Lightning strikes the U.S. 25 million times a year, which sometimes results in death or permanent injury. You are safest indoors, or inside a hard-topped enclosed vehicle. Most of these tragedies can be avoided with a few simple precautions. When thunderstorms threaten, get to a safe place. Lightning safety is an inconvenience that can save your life.

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.  Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall.  Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms have seemingly passed.

Keep this simple fact in mind:  if you can hear thunder, you are in danger.  Also, don’t be fooled by blue skies. There is no such thing as “heat lightning.”  All lightning comes as a result of a thunderstorm, and if you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat to you.

The most effective lightning safety action can be found in avoiding the lightning threat altogether.  Have a lightning safety plan.  If you have outdoor plans, know where you’ll go for safety and how much time it will take to get there. Make sure your plan allows enough time to reach safety.

Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, consider postponing activities to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

Finally, when outdoors, monitor the weather and be sure to look for signs of a developing thunderstorm such as darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind.   If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, immediately activate your lightning safety plan and move to a safe place.

Flash Flood Safety 

Flash flooding in North Carolina usually occurs when a large amount of rain falls in an area over a short period of time. The ground can only soak up so much water in a given time, and when the rain rate exceeds what can infiltrate into the ground or run off into drainage systems or streams, flooding is likely to occur.

Hurricanes, tropical storms, and ordinary thunderstorms can produce flash flooding.

More people die from floods each year than from tornadoes, lightning, or hurricanes. Forecasters can usually predict where flooding will occur when a hurricane or tropical storm affects an area. However, when dealing with thunderstorms, predicting flash floods can be nearly impossible due to their isolated nature.

Flash floods usually occur in low-lying areas where water can collect or in cities where water runoff from impermeable surfaces can fill roads or storm drains quickly.

Remember these flash flood safety tips:

  • If a flash flood warning is issued for your area, or if there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moving or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.  If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
  • Do not disregard or drive around traffic barricades that close off flooded roadways.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

Make a Plan and Encourage Others to do the Same

The first step in making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather is pledging to prepare.  This includes developing a family emergency and communications plan.

In short, know what to do before severe weather strikes by creating an emergency plan today.

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

Planning for severe weather also includes…

  • Ensure that you and your family members know about your surroundings and severe weather risks specific to your area.
  • Have an emergency plan in place, and know what to do before severe weather strikes. Visit for more on family preparedness and to download a copy of the Family Emergency Plan.
  • Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts.
  • Exercise the plan with your family and post it in your home where visitors can see it.
  • As part of tailoring your plans, consider working with others to create networks of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers who will assist each other in an emergency. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, pets, specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment or how we can inform someone with a hearing loss about impending severe weather .
  • Identify an appropriate shelter in your home, neighborhood and community ahead of time. Share this with your neighbors.
  • Learn how to strengthen your home and business against severe weather. Pass this on at a community gathering, local service organizations or faith-based meeting.
  • Find out from local government emergency management how you will be notified for each kind of disaster, and sign up for additional alerts through social media and local news. Understand these local warning systems and signals, and share your knowledge with your coworkers and friends. Email these resources to your friends, or post them to your social media account.