North Carolina Severe Weather Awareness Week


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There will be a statewide tornado drill March 5 at 9:30 a.m.

The goal of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is to inform the public about severe weather hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to prepare and take action. These actions can be used to save lives anywhere - at home, in schools, and in the workplace before tornadoes and severe thunderstorms and extreme weather strikes.

Know Your Risk

The first step in being a force of nature is knowing your risk. Here are a few statistics about North Carolina's severe weather risks:

  • North Carolina experiences about 40 to 50 thunderstorm days per year.
  • While tornadoes can happen anywhere in the state, climate analysis suggests that more tornadoes occur in the southeast, south-central region, and eastern piedmont and coastal plain regions of North Carolina.
  • Severe gusts of wind from a thunderstorm called downbursts or straight line winds are a serious danger.
  • Hail is a threat to life and property and has been responsible for millions of dollars' worth of damage in North Carolina.
  • There have been 20 lightning fatalities in the state during the past 10 years.

Develop an Emergency Plan

When you pledge to prepare, you take the first step to making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather

  • Ensure that you and your family members know about your surroundings and risk for specific weather.
  • Have an emergency plan in place, and know what to do before severe weather strikes. Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts.
  • Exercise the plan with your family and post it in your home where visitors can see it.
  • As part of tailoring your plans, consider working with others to create networks of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers who will assist each other in an emergency. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, pets, specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment or how we can inform someone with a hearing loss about impending severe weather .
  • Identify an appropriate shelter in your home, neighborhood and community ahead of time. Share this with your neighbors.
  • Learn how to strengthen your home and business against severe weather. Pass this on at a community gathering, local service organizations or faith-based meeting.
  • Find out from local government emergency management how you will be notified for each kind of disaster and sign up for additional alerts through social media and local news. Understand these local warning systems and signals and share your knowledge with your coworkers, friends. Email these resources to your friends, post to your social media account.

Build a Kit

A disaster supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of a weather emergency.

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant
  • Cleaning items, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Adequate clothing, such as a jacket or coat, long pants, a long sleeve shirt, sturdy shoes, rain gear, and a hat and gloves
  • A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Mess kits, paper towels, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

Hear the Warning with NOAA Weather Radio - Get the Alert

A NOAA weather radio remains one of the best ways to receive weather warnings, especially at night. NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. NOAA weather radio broadcasts official weather service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In North Carolina nearly 30 NOAA weather radio broadcast stations provide weather forecast and warning information for all 100 counties. No matter where you live there is a NOAA weather radio station nearby.

Be an example - Get involved

There are many other ways to get involved, especially before a disaster occurs. The whole community can participate in programs and activities to make their families, homes and communities safer from risks and threats. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Volunteer to support disaster efforts in your community. Get trained and volunteer with a Community Emergency Response Team, Medical Reserve Corps unit and/or other Citizen Corps Partner Program or Affiliate organization. Many local faith-based and community organizations have programs active in supporting disasters too.
  • Be part of the community planning process. Connect and collaborate with your local emergency planning group, Citizen Corps Council or local emergency management agency.
  • Join or start a preparedness project. Find an event or identify local resources, build a team, choose a project, set goals and serve your community by improving the preparedness of your friends, colleagues and neighbors.
  • Support major disasters by donating cash or goods which may help meet the needs of your community in times of disaster.

North Carolina Severe Weather Threats and Safety - Know your terms

Severe Thunderstorms:

  • The term severe thunderstorm refers to a thunderstorm producing hail that is at least 1 inch in diameter, wind gusts to 58 mph or greater, a tornado, or any combination of the three.
  • The severe thunderstorm season in central North Carolina typically starts in March and does not end until late in the fall. Some of the most damaging storms occur from March through early July.

Large Hail:

  • The large hail season in central North Carolina typically runs from March through early July, typically peaking in May.
  • While hail is not usually life threatening, these large chunks of ice can cause serious damage to roofs, siding, windows, automobiles, and crops.
  • To stay safe from large hail, simply move indoors and remain there until the storm passes.

Damaging Wind:

  • Severe gusts of wind from a thunderstorm called downbursts or straight line winds are a serious danger, and can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph.
  • Straight line winds can cause damage that looks similar to and is equivalent to that of a tornado.
  • Damaging wind events in North Carolina typically start in March and last into September, with a peak in activity from May through early August.
  • To stay safe from damaging winds, remember to get inside a sturdy home or business when a warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches. Stay away from windows when storms approach and seek shelter in an interior bathroom or closet when the wind begins to intensify.


  • Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms and is what defines a thunderstorm.
  • In a typical year there are around 500,000 lightning strikes in North Carolina resulting in around 9 to 12 strikes per square mile.
  • During the past 10 years, there have been 20 lightning-related fatalities in the state. Most lightning fatalities occur when people are caught outside working, playing, boating or golfing.
  • Lightning can travel up to 15 miles away from a thunderstorm. For that reason, anytime you hear thunder or see lightning, seek shelter indoors, and remain indoors away from windows for at least 30 minutes after the storm ends. If caught outdoors, stay away from trees, telephone poles, and other tall objects. A hard-topped vehicle will offer good protection from lightning. When boating, try to seek safe shelter well before the storm approaches. Remember the phrase "When thunder roars go indoors."


  • Tornadoes can occur any month of the year in North Carolina. Violent tornadoes with winds in excess of 150 mph have struck the state as early as March and as late as November.
  • The worst tornado outbreak in North Carolina history occurred on April 16, 2011, when 30 confirmed tornadoes occurred. A total of 24 individuals lost their lives in North Carolina.
  • A large portion of tornado fatalities in North Carolina have occurred at night. At night, tornadoes are difficult to see, and even when warnings are provided at night, people asleep are less likely to hear those warnings.
  • When a tornado warning is issued for your area or if you spot a tornado, seek shelter in a substantial building. The safest place is in an interior bathroom or closet. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Stay away from windows as debris picked up by a tornado can easily shatter a window and enter your home.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a low spot like a ditch or culvert. You want to get as low as possible to protect yourself from flying debris.
  • If in your car and threatened by a tornado, abandon your vehicle and seek shelter in a substantial structure or in a ditch. Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.

Flooding and Flash Flooding:

  • Nationwide, flooding causes more fatalities than any other type of severe weather.

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