ELIZABETHTOWN — Students across North Carolina, including those in Bladen County, and area businesses will be spending the week preparing for severe weather.
At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, all NOAA Weather Radio stations, along with local broadcast stations, will use the Emergency Alert System to transmit a tornado drill message. Conducted in cooperation with the National Weather Service, local school systems and North Carolina Emergency Management, the drill gives North Carolina schools and businesses an opportunity to test their preparedness and action plans for a severe weather event.
“We will be participating in this, as we do every year,” said Bladen County Schools Public Relations Officer Valerie Newton. “Some schools may do it earlier in the day and others do it later in the day, depending on their bell schedule, but all schools will be doing it at some point (Wednesday).”
The drill is part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 4-10. The week-long raising of awareness sits on the brink of the state’s deadliest time for tornadoes — March, May and November. According to the National Weather Service, in 2017, more than 80 tornado warnings were issued in North Carolina, with 30 tornadoes recorded for the year.
“With warmer weather quickly approaching, now is the time to prepare for the severe weather season,” according to the National Weather Service. “If you 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.”
Tornadoes form when warm, moist air collides with cold air. The result can be large hail, strong winds, and lightning.
A tornado warning means a storm has been detected, and people in the warning area should take shelter immediately by going to a basement if possible. If a basement is not an option, an interior room such as a hallway, pantry, or closet on the lowest floor of the house are alternatives.
Students and staff at schools should go to inner hallways away from windows, preferably on the lowest level. Gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias, or other areas with large roof spans should be avoided.
More common than tornado warnings are severe thunderstorm warnings, which numbered 561 last year. The state recorded 548 severe thunderstorm wind events and $60 million in damage from severe weather.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.