Severe Weather Awareness Week is Feb. 20-26 in South Carolina, and in preparation for the violent weather that affects South Carolina during the spring each year, a state tornado drill will be conducted on Wednesday, Feb. 23, directed by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.
The average number of days with thunderstorms in South Carolina is between 45 and 70, depending on location. Being informed of the proper precautions and procedures to follow when severe weather threatens is imperative to saving lives and property. Therefore, the State Climate Office in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources provides the following information on thunderstorms and the associated risks of lightning, flash floods, hail, high winds, and tornadoes.
Most of South Carolina experiences the highest frequency of tornadoes in the month of April. The exception is the northern coastal plain where the potential for tornadoes is highest during May. Between 1950 and 2003, 637 tornadoes hit the state on numerous occasions causing 54 deaths, more than 1,500 injuries and more than $300 million in damage. The average number of tornadoes to affect the state annually is 11. Nationwide, tornadoes cause 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries each year.
The National Weather Service provides the public with warnings as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes move into a given area. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issues Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches for sections of the country deemed likely to see severe weather. Products from the Storm Prediction Center may be found at http://www.spc.noaa.gov. A severe thunderstorm is defined as a thunderstorm that produces hail of at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter and/or winds of 58 miles per hour and possible tornadoes. The State Climate Office recommends purchasing a NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio for your home to alert your family to life threatening weather conditions. Weather radios can be purchased at most department stores and electronic retailers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service recommend the following actions before, during, and after severe weather. A thorough list of information and preparedness guides may be found at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/gsp/links/safety.htm.
Develop a family disaster plan and a disaster supply kit with a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food, a change of clothes, several blankets, a first aid kit, medicines, flashlights, batteries, NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio, cash or credit card, and other necessary items.
Identify a safe place for shelter.
Practice the plan to maintain readiness in the moment of panic when severe weather strikes. Know lightning safety. Stay or move indoors and do not take shelter under trees, small sheds, or near tall objects. If outside, find a low spot and squat on the balls of your feet with your hands over your ears and head between the knees. Do not lie down! Unplug appliances and do not use the phone or take a bath. Lightning causes 80 deaths and 300 injuries yearly in the nation. Know tornado safety. Stay or move indoors to a sheltered area such as the basement or a small interior room/hallway on the lowest floor away from windows. Do not stay in an automobile. Lie flat in a nearby ditch and cover your head. A bridge or overpass is not a safe place. Do not open windows in your home. The myth that your home will explode is not true and may cost valuable time in finding shelter. Know flash flood safety. Do not walk, swim, or drive into floodwaters. Find higher ground. Flooding is the No. 1 killer nationwide (more than 140 deaths) with thunderstorms each year.
Severe Weather Awareness Week is a valuable time to practice the preparation and response to severe weather that promises to affect South Carolina throughout the year. Please take the time to meet with your family members and discuss a plan of action during weather emergencies. It will save lives!
Additional information may be obtained on weather and climate from the State Climate Office at its Web site (http://www.dnr.state.sc.us/water/climate/sco) or you may contact Jason Caldwell, severe weather liaison, at (803) 734-0039 in Columbia or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.