Along with pollen, colorful blooms and rain, spring can bring violent weather. The peak season in the South for tornadoes is March through May, and volatile weather changes can mean storms pop up unexpectedly.
While Bulloch and surrounding counties have experienced damage from straight-line winds and other storms over the past few years, the most recent documented tornado occurred four years ago on March 26, 2011.
Approximately $250,000 in damage occurred in the Portal/Aaron Station area during that storm, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn. Several homes were damaged or destroyed during the nighttime twister, leaving families without immediate shelter.
“Bulloch County has been struck by four tornadoes in the last 20 years, with property damages reported at $445,000,” he said.
Wynn encourages residents to be prepared for the possibility of tornadoes. He promotes a program by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency that helps people stay safe in the event a tornado forms in the area.
“GEMA’s Ready Georgia is a statewide emergency preparedness campaign that offers tools that residents can use to create an emergency supply kit, develop a communications plan and stay informed about potential threats,” he said.
More information about the campaign can be found online at www.ready.ga.gov.
Wynn recommends tips provided by the campaign to keep safe during such storms. One point of confusion for many is the difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning.
A watch means “a tornado is possible in your area, and a warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area,” he said. If a tornado warning is issued, “you need to take shelter immediately.”
People should determine in advance where they will seek shelter in case of a tornado warning, he said. Also, have a “ready kit” made up of emergency supplies, including medications, a NOAA weather radio, first aid kit and at least three days’ supply of food and water.
If you see a funnel cloud or authorities warn there is one in the area, it is imperative you take shelter immediately, Wynn said. “Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.”
If that’s not an option, he suggests seeking refuge in an interior hallway or room on the lowest level of the building.
Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls, and find a spot in the center of the room, because corners “attract debris,” he said.
If caught outside during a tornado, “lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area,” but don’t get under a bridge or overpass, he said. “You are safer in a low, flat location.”
Vehicles, mobile homes or other less-sturdy structures are not safe, he said.
“Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible,” he said.
If a tornado occurs, stay inside until you are sure the storm is over, he said. Once outside, make sure to avoid downed power lines, and stay out of damaged buildings, as they can collapse. Wynn also reminds people to check on others, including elderly and handicapped neighbors who may need assistance.
“A few minutes of preparation can save a life or make you far more comfortable in case of an emergency situation,” he said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.