Georgia residents got a reminder last weekend about tornado preparedness.
Thirty-nine people died during tornado outbreaks in five states: Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama and Georgia. According to AccuWeather.com, 80 tornado sightings were reported between 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, plus 40 more Saturday.
According to the Rome News-Tribune, 30 homes were destroyed in Georgia and another 189 homes or buildings were damaged from three twisters: an EF-3 in Haralson and Paulding counties, another EF-3 in Lowndes and Lanier counties and an EF-1 in Cobb County. According to noaa.org, an EF-3 tornado has an estimated 3-second gust of 136-165 mph, while an EF-1 has an estimated gust of 86-110 mph. Patricia Barnette, 83, of Alpharetta, died when she supposedly left her home to seek shelter in a storm drain and was swept away by the raging downpour.
Despite the destruction and loss of life caused by the storms, stories of miraculous survival abound. How many of these people survived is no accident, according to Mike Hodges, director of Liberty County Emergency Management Agency.
“During this past weekend, we got a lot of calls from people asking us, ‘What do I do?’ or ‘Where do I go?’” Hodges said. “’Stay in your house’ is what I told most of them. These things happen so fast, you shouldn’t try to go anywhere. Don’t even take the time to investigate that terrible wind noise you’re hearing outside. Shelter in place.”
Hodges said people should respond to severe weather alerts and get prepared before tornado watches become warnings, which are issued when a twister is imminent.
Taking time to look at the approaching black cloud might be the last thing someone sees, he said.
“Run to the centermost part of your house,” he said, suggesting a bathroom or fortified closet as the best place to hunker down. “Get down as low to the floor as you can, and if possible, grab a small mattress and pull it over you.”
According to weather.com, there are three types of tornado shelters: underground, in-residence and community shelters.
Due to the high water table in the Hinesville area, underground storm shelters are not practical. An in-residence shelter such as a fortified, interior closet can be costly.
Most community shelters are above ground, so they’re exposed to the same flying debris as a house. However, they tend to be stronger than most manufactured homes, and they’re capable of offering more protection for multiple families.
Hodges advised that Liberty County residents should build an emergency kit and develop a communications plan.
For more information, call the Liberty County EMA at 368-2201 or go to www.ready.gov.