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Statewide Severe Weather drill to be held Friday morning
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    Sirens sounding off around 9 a.m. today are part of a statewide Severe Weather drill, postponed from Wednesday due to inclement weather.
    Governor Sonny Perdue, in cooperation with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and Georgia's local emergency management agencies,  proclaimed this week (February 19-23) as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia.  The statewide drill is to remind citizens of safety measures in the event of severe weather, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
    "Schools are not in session this week, but we encourage folks to participate and look at safety plans in their homes," he said.
    He encouraged citizens to check their disaster supply kits, and purchase weather band radios .
    The weather alert siren will sound at 9 a.m., he said. "We're testing the system. We will receive the alert and rebroadcast it to all public service agencies, factories and schools."
    Bulloch County, like anywhere else, has been the site of weather disasters including tornadoes and flash floods. Wynn said awareness and having a safety plan in place is important for citizens' safety.
    Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Director Charley English distributed information statewide this week reminding people to be safe in the event of a flood, tornado or thunderstorm. GEMA works closely with county emergency management agencies to ensure the safety of citizens.
    People in Statesboro may not consider the area prone to flooding,  but although the floods aren't as severe as in some states, heavy rainfall can cause flash floods  that cause waters to invade homes, bock roadways and pose other dangers.
    " Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, except fire," he said. "In Georgia, most communities experience some kind of flooding after spring rains or heavy thunderstorms. Floods can be slow or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days."
    Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period, he said. "They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes."
    The storms themselves can wreak havoc and pose a danger to people.
    "Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms," English said." Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, hail and flash flooding. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes."
    These storms can also produce lightning.
    English said during the past 29 years the state has observed Severe Weather Awareness Week,  "at least 49 people were killed and more than two dozen were injured by lightning in Georgia."
     Lightning kills an average of 100 people a year throughout the United States -  more people than tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. It occurs mostly during the warmer months of June through September, he said.
    There were about 500 thunderstorms in Georgia last year, taking place on 80 separate days, but only 10 percent were considered severe, he said. The biggest danger from these storms are straight line winds and hail.
    "Straight line winds can reach speeds excess of 100 miles per hour and produce damage similar to a tornado," he said. These winds are most common in the spring and summer months, peaking in July.
    Many people confuse straight line winds with tornadoes, but they are very different.
    "Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air, extending from a thunderstorm that is in contact with the ground," English said. "Tornadoes can vary in shape, size and intensity. Most tornadoes are weak, lasting a few minutes and producing winds of less than 100 miles per hour. 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 miles per hour."
    Both English and Wynn suggest people have an emergency plan in place before a disaster occurs.
    Wynn emphasized the importance of having a weather band radio. These radios are available to local businesses through Bulloch County Public Safety, he said. For more information contact Wynn at 489-1661.
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