Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Georgia

The NWS highlights different threats for the state

By Rebecca Barry - Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - According to the National Weather Service, Georgia will recognize the week of February 5 - 9 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Severe weather is no stranger to the state. The first half of last year brought a very active severe weather season, with multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. 

As we approach what is typically the most active part of the year for severe weather, Severe Weather Preparedness Week provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the dangers of severe weather, as well as knowing how and when to take proper actions when severe weather is expected and hits.  Please take the time now to review your home, school, or businesses preparedness plans. Each day is dedicated to a different topic that addresses severe weather preparedness.  Below is the information provided by the National Weather Service for each day of Severe Weather Preparedness Week.




Monday- Family Preparation

Monday's focus is on family preparation. Families should be prepared for any type of hazard that could affect their area. The best way to do this is to develop a family disaster plan.  Remember to also inquire about emergency plans at work and school.

Get a Kit

  • This kit is a group of items you may need during a disaster. By having these items grouped together, you can quickly grab your kit and leave if an evacuation is ordered for your area.
  • Make sure to have food and water for each person and your pets for at least 72 hours. Sometimes emergency workers can not reach you immediately and you'll need to survive on your own.
  • Keep in mind that basic services such as electricity and water may not be available. Make sure that your kit includes items that will help you manage through these lose of services.
  • Disasters can be hard on adults and children - make sure to include some comforting items in your kit, whether it is a teddy bear or a game for a child or comfort/stress foods for adults.

Click here for a downloadable emergency supply kit checklist.

Make a plan

  • Learn what hazards affect your area. Contact the National Weather Service office, your local emergency management office, or a local Red Cross chapter to learn which hazards can affect you.
  • Make sure you know what to do when severe weather strikes.
  • If you get separated from family, make sure you have a place to meet or have a out-of-town contact to let know you are ok.
  • You can download and fill out your Family Emergency Plan from FEMA by clicking here
  • Involve children in the plan making process. Click here to see how Sesame Street can help kids be ready for a disaster!
  • Practice your plan.

Be informed - get the warning (NOAA Weather Radio + Wireless Emergency Alerts)

  • Make sure that you get watches, warnings and advisories when severe weather strikes. These are just a few ways in which to get watches, warnings and advisories - remember it's important to receive alerts and warnings multiple ways.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio. Make sure it's plugged in, turned on, and have extra batteries just in case the power goes out. A key benefit of NOAA Weather Radio is it will alert you while you are sleeping so you can take shelter.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are a nationwide text emergency alert system which will send an automated alert (text) to your mobile device when significant weather threatens (i.e. Tornado Warning, Flash Flood Warning, etc.)
  • Local television and radio stations also broadcast (scroll) severe weather watches and warnings. These scrolls are not controlled by the NWS.

*Portions of the information above is from FEMA and the Red Cross.

Tuesday- Thunderstorm Safety

Tuesday's topic is thunderstorm safety. Thunderstorms are a common occurrence in Georgia, especially during the spring and summer months. Thunderstorms can produce gusty winds, hail and even tornadoes, but in particular a severe thunderstorm can produce hail of 1” or larger (size of a quarter) and/or 58 mph (50 knots) winds or greater. Notice that lightning is not in the criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning. Typically, a severe thunderstorm lasts about 30 minutes and occurs in the afternoon and evening hours. However, severe weather is possible any time of the day and any time of the year. Supercells, a special class of thunderstorms, are particularly violent and can last for several hours. Tornadoes are often produced from these supercell thunderstorms. This type of thunderstorm is most common in the spring.

Damaging wind is the most common type of severe weather across north and central Georgia. These events can occur any time of the year, but peak in July when downbursts from pulse thunderstorms are common. Based on data from 1950-2010, 18 fatalities and 325 injuries were caused by damaging wind across north and central Georgia. Similar to damaging wind events, hail can occur in any month across north and central Georgia, however, hail events peak in May. April comes in a close second for hail events. Although most hail is between 1” and 2” in diameter in Georgia, 4.5” (softball sized) hail has been recorded across north Georgia four times. 

Protecting yourself and your family from severe thunderstorms


  • The best thing to do is to have a plan of action in place before threatening weather develops. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a severe thunderstorm has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
  • Make sure to get watch and warning information from multiple platforms. This will help ensure you receive life-saving weather information even if one method fails. NOAA Weather Radio, televisions, radios, cell phone alerts and sirens are all different ways to receive watches and warnings and each has its own benefits.
  • If severe weather is imminent, and you are inside, move to a shelter such as a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of the building. It’s best to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Remember, even straight line winds from a severe thunderstorm can cause damage equal in magnitude to a tornado.
  • If you are caught outside during any thunderstorm, seek shelter in a sturdy structure.

Wednesday- Tornado Safety

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air, extending from the thunderstorm that is in contact with the ground. Tornadoes can vary in shape, size and intensity. Most tornadoes are weak, lasting a few minutes and producing winds of less than 100 mph. However, a few tornadoes are strong or even violent. These tornadoes last from 20 minutes to over an hour and can produce winds of between 100 and 300 mph.

All of Georgia is prone to tornadoes, as shown in this map depicting Georgia tornadoes from 1950-2014. The average number of days with reported tornadoes is 6 in Georgia. Tornadoes have been reported throughout the year, but are most likely to occur from March to May, with the peak in April. Tornadoes are also most likely in the mid afternoon to early evening time frame, but can occur any time of the day or night. 37 percent of all tornadoes are classified as strong or violent (EF2 or greater on the Enhanced Fujita Scale), and these tornadoes are most likely to occur in the month of April. Although Georgia has seen a few EF-4 tornadoes, with the most recent one on April 27, 2011 in Catoosa County, the state has never recorded an EF-5 tornado. In Georgia, tornadoes are often hard to see as they are wrapped in areas of rain and hail. The hilly terrain can also limit your ability to see a tornado. 

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

  • The best thing to do is to have a plan of action in place before threatening weather develops. The Red Cross has a Tornado Safety Checklist available to help you make your plan.
  • Know what the difference is between a watch and warning. A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
  • Know your area (including the name of your county) so you can track storms via weather radio, local TV, radio reports or the internet. Make sure you have battery backup. Monitor area forecasts to know if threatening weather is possible when you are planning outdoor activities.
  • If a tornado is imminent and you are in a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter on the lowest floor, such as a basement, or a small interior room closet, bathroom or hallway and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Remember to always put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. If you are caught outside or in a vehicle lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression, but be aware of possible flooding, and cover your head with your hands.
  • Mobile homes are not a safe place to be during severe weather. You should leave a mobile home and go the lowest floor of sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter.

Thursday- Lightning Safety

Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather deaths in the United States. From 1995 to 2016, lightning caused 30 deaths in Georgia. Most lightning deaths occur in the summer months - usually in the afternoon and evening hours. Also, most deaths occur when people are caught outside during a storm. For those that survive a lightning strike, there can be life-long effects. 

Lightning results from the buildup and release of electrical energy between positive and negative charges between the earth and a thunderstorm. A single lightning bolt can be as hot as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit - hotter even than the surface of the sun. This rapid heating and cooling of the air creates a shock wave which we hear as thunder. Lightning will usually strike the highest object in area. This includes trees, antennas, a boat on a lake, or a person standing in a field.

What should you do to protect yourself?

  • When thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder, you are already at risk. If you are outside, get inside a building or vehicle. Stay indoors until 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder. If you cannot find shelter, do not stand under a tree or remain in an open place when lightning is near. Avoid open water, as well as tractors, bicycles, motorcycles, or golf carts. These will not provide protection, and may actually attract lightning.
  • Enclosed vehicles are generally safe, if you avoid contact with metal surfaces.
  • If you are in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
  • If you are outside, and feel your hair stand on end, this indicates lightning is about to strike. Drop to your knees and roll forward to the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees and tuck your head down. Do not lie flat on the ground.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land as quickly as possible.
  • If you are inside, don't use a telephone or other electrical equipment unless in an emergency.
  • Do not take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm.

Access more information about lightning, kids games and educational activities, and more by clicking here...

Friday- Flooding

Although not widely known, flooding kills more people than any other weather hazard. The majority of deaths from flooding occur when people become trapped in automobiles that stall while driving through flooded areas. Nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related. Flooding is usually divided into two categories. These categories are flash flooding and river flooding. Both of these can cause death, injury, and property destruction.

Flash floods are usually caused by slow moving thunderstorms or thunderstorms that move over the same area one after the other, called training. These floods usually occur within 6 hours of heavy rainfall and are usually more life threatening as a result. Areas most prone to floods are mountainous streams and rivers, urban areas, low-lying areas, and culverts. A good example of flash flooding is the flooding in metropolitan Atlanta in September of 2009.

River flooding is caused by the gradual increase in the water level of a river or creek. These floods usually occur seasonally with general rains or with heavy rainfall from tropical systems. A good example of river flooding is the flooding that affected south Georgia after Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994.

Protecting yourself and your family

  • Know what to listen for. A Flood Watch or a Flash Flood Watch means that conditions have been detected that could lead to flooding of a certain area. A River Flood Warning or a Flash Flood Warning means that flooding is imminent and you should take action immediately. You can monitor NOAA Weather Radio or any local radio or TV station to get the latest information.
  • If flooding occurs get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding such as canyons, dips, and low spots.
  • Avoid areas already flooding, especially if the water is fast flowing. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Road beds may be washed out due to the flooding. Never try to cross flooded roadways. Remember, turn around, don't drown.
  • If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flood dangers.
  • Additional information on flood safety can be found in the Flood Safety Checklist from the American Red Cross.


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