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State prepares for adverse weather

March 2, 2011

Winter snow woes were replaced this week with another weather worry — tornadoes.

Severe Weather Awareness week started Sunday, just one day before severe weather swept through Catawba County, downing power lines and trees. No serious injuries or fatalities were reported, according to Catawba County Emergency Services director Bryan Blanton, but active tornado season is just starting.

North Carolinians experienced more tornados in the last three years than in the previous decade, with March, May and November being the deadliest months, according to a press release from Perdue's office.

Only Kansas, Texas and Nebraska reported more tornado activity than North Carolina.

"Last year, North Carolina ranked fourth in the nation with the total number of severe storms reported," Perdue said. "We know that these storms can strike quickly, and you may only have a few minutes warning.

That is why it is so critical to have emergency plans in place."

Newton-Conover Middle School students participated in a tornado drill Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., when Perdue encouraged all schools and government buildings statewide to practice the drill.

NCMS does the drill annually, and administrators review the drill's execution to determine if the school is prepared during an emergency.

If the drill isn't up to par, then the school will hold another in a few weeks.

"That's the good thing about a drill," said NCMS principal Jim Elliott.

Students filed into lines along NCMS hallways, got on their knees and covered their heads during the drill. Elliott and other school staff members walked along the hallways and watched to make sure everyone took the drill seriously.

Prior to the drill, Elliott followed protocol by announcing that the area was under a tornado watch, which means conditions are favorable for a tornado. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is spotted in the area.

According to Perdue's office, tornados usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. Catawba County's communications center received a call Monday reporting a funnel-like cloud in the county, but a tornado was never confirmed.

In 2010, the NWS issued about 90 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 26 tornadoes — one of which was confirmed in Claremont in October. Twelve of those storms included winds at least 100 miles per hour.

The state sustained at least $24 million in damage from the storm. Catawba County reported damages estimated at more than $6 million.

Residents are also asked to beware of other severe weather, such as lightning, floods or hail.

Tornado safety tips

-Go to the lowest floor of a building, such as a basement, interior room, hallway or closet;

-Stay away from rooms with high ceilings, like gymnasiums, or rooms with a lot of windows;

-Have an emergency plan with family members about where to meet and what to do in the event of adverse weather;

-Avoid motor-vehicle travel during reports of bad weather;

-Find a ditch or low-lying area if caught outside during a tornado and beware of flying objects.

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