Students at Olive Chapel Elementary School in Apex either took shelter against an inner wall in their classroom or filed quietly into hallways to practice an annual statewide tornado drill on Wednesday, March 5. Once crouched in the protective position with hands over their heads, the children waited for several minutes until the all clear message was given.
Nick Petro, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh spoke to a classroom of fifth graders following the drill about how to be alert to dangerous storms.
The annual tornado drill is part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 2-8. The drills are conducted in cooperation with the National Weather Service, local broadcasters and State Emergency Management.
At 9:30 a.m., NOAA Weather Radio stations, along with local broadcast stations, used the Emergency Alert System to transmit the tornado drill message. The drill gives local schools and businesses an opportunity to test their preparedness and action plans for a severe weather event.
Below are tips on how to be safe:
Tornado Safety Tips
Tornadoes can occur with little or no warning. The Department of Public Safety recommends that family members have a safety plan to respond quickly in case a tornado threatens at home, work or school.
Listen to local weather broadcasts
- Listen to the radio, local television, weather channel or a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio for information on any severe weather in your area.
- A watch means conditions are right for tornado formation; a warning means a tornado has actually been sighted.
Go to the lowest level and inner rooms
- If a tornado threatens, the safest place to be is underground in a basement or storm cellar.
- If you have no basement, go to an inner hallway or smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
- Do not open or close windows. Stay away from them.
- Stay away from skylights and large open areas.
- Stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums and other rooms with a large expanse of roof.
- Try to find something sturdy you can get under to protect yourself from flying debris or a collapsed roof.
- Crouch on the floor in the egg position.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- If severe weather threatens seek other shelter. Even mobile homes with tie-downs are not safe from high winds.
- Know beforehand where you can go for safe shelter whenever the weather turns bad.
If you are outside
- Lie on the ground, in a ditch or depression if possible.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck and wait for the storm to pass.
- While waiting, be alert for the flash floods that sometimes accompany tornadoes.
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in a car. A tornado can toss cars and trucks around like toys.
- If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued, get out of your vehicle and find safe shelter immediately.
- Falling hail is a danger sign if there is a tornado watch or warning posted.
- An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado, even if a funnel is not visible.
- The wind may die down and the air may become very still before a tornado hits.
- Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
- It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
- A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground and swirling with debris. (A funnel cloud rotates, but has no contact with the ground, no debris and is not doing any damage).
- Tornadoes usually are preceded by very heavy rain and sometimes hail.
- If hail falls from a thunderstorm, it is an indication that the storm has large amounts of energy and may be severe. In general, the larger the hailstones, the more potential for damaging thunderstorm winds or tornadoes.
- The most violent tornadoes can have wind speeds of 250 miles per hour or more.
- The typical width of a tornado is about 50 yards wide.
- An average tornado damage path is one to two miles long. However, a tornado damage path can be more than one mile wide and 50 miles long.
- The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, though tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
- The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.
- Tornadoes can occur throughout the year; however, the peak season in North Carolina is March through May.
- Tornadoes are most likely to occur between late afternoon and early evening, but the twisters have been known to occur at all hours of the day or night.
- The National Weather Service uses Doppler weather radar to sense the air movement within thunderstorms. Early detection of increasing rotation aloft within a thunderstorm can allow time for lifesaving warnings before a tornado forms.
Thanks to NC Department of Public Safety, Patty McQuillian