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Severe Weather Preparedness Week is March 3-9

The Gaston County Office of Emergency Management urges Gaston County residents to prepare for severe weather that may occur with little to no warning this spring.

March 3-9 is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in North Carolina. Gaston County officials urge residents to participate in the annual statewide tornado drill March 6 to practice their emergency plan in case severe weather strikes our state.

“Spring is quickly approaching and so is the potential for severe weather,” said Keith Rapp, Director of the Gaston County Office of Emergency Management. “Severe thunderstorms involve a variety of weather conditions such as hail, flash floods and tornadoes which can have devastating impacts. These storms can develop so rapidly, that having a plan in place beforehand is critical. The best way to prepare is to have a family emergency plan, assemble a supplies kit, and stay alert by listening to local radio, television or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio for information on severe weather.”

Many Gaston County organizations will participate in the statewide tornado drill Wednesday, March 6, at 9:30 a.m. The National Weather Service (NWS) will broadcast the drill over NOAA weather radio stations and the Emergency Alert System.

“Practice makes perfect rings true when it comes to preparing for severe weather. The time you take now to prepare will make all the difference if and when disaster strikes,” Rapp said. “I encourage all county residents, businesses and organizations to participate in the drill and use this week as a time to build a personal preparedness kit.”

In 2018, the NWS issued 104 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 20 tornadoes. There were 184 flood or flash flood events across the state. In addition, the NWS issued 605 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded 137 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds or hail.

County Emergency Management officials recommend having a family emergency plan in place so all members know where to go, who to call and what to do during a disaster. Officials also recommend staying alert by listening to weather radios that broadcast alerts from the National Weather Service. Hope is not a Strategy! Often times a brief discussion about who, what, when, where, and how to react during a storm can eliminate the potential for a fatal mistake.

Emergency officials recommend residents use the following safety tips:

  • Know the terms: WATCH means a tornado is possible. WARNING means a tornado has been spotted; take shelter immediately.
  • Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room and away from windows, and go there immediately if you hear or see a tornado.
  • If driving, you should leave your vehicle immediately to seek safety in an adequate structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle, and do not stop under an overpass or a bridge.
  • If you are outdoors, and there is no shelter available, take cover in a low-lying flat area. Watch out for flying debris.
  • Following a storm, wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves and gloves when walking on or near debris, and be aware of exposed nails and broken glass.
  • Be aware of damaged power or gas lines and electrical systems that may cause fires, electrocution or explosions.
  • Remember that the First 72 is on you. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is unpredictable. A good rule of thumb is to plan and prepare for 72 hours without emergency assistance during a disaster. Items such as a first aid kit, flashlight, food, fuel, water, and generators become much more than convenience items when storms strike. Gaston County has some of the finest Men and Women in the United States working in Emergency Services ready to assist 24/7. However those of us who are personally prepared enable our first responders to prioritize responses to those with the greatest need.

More information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. Gaston County emergency officials encourage residents to download the free ReadyNC mobile app.

Daily topics concerning Severe Weather Preparedness Week 2019 will posted on the Gaston County Emergency Management and Fire Marshal’s Office Facebook page.

For further information contact Keith Rapp, Director, Gaston County Office of Emergency Management at 704-718-5662.