Published on 08/24/11

Be prepared for bad weather year-round

By April Reese Sorrow

The probability of Georgia being directly hit by a hurricane in any given year is low. Regardless, Georgians should prepare just in case says the state’s climatologist.

The Atlantic hurricane season starts in June and runs through November, but late summer and early fall is when it is most active. Tropical systems and the bad weather that comes with them can hit outside of the official season, said David Stooksbury, state climatologist and associate professor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Get a weather radio

The No. 1 way to stay informed of threatening weather is to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, radio. A NOAA weather radio sounds an alarm and broadcasts up-to-date details about tornadoes, thunderstorms, flash floods and tropical weather. Make sure to buy one with the Specific Area Message Encoding, or SAME, technology. It can be purchased at most electronic stores and even some grocery stores and is programmed for a particular county.

It is common for severe weather to strike at night in Georgia. For this reason, place the radio in the bedroom to warn sleepers.

“Outdoor warning sirens aren't a good way to monitor severe weather,” he said. “Don't depend on them. Outdoor sirens are to warn people working or playing outside of approaching severe weather. They're not intended to warn people in cars, buildings or people who are sleeping.”

Prepare a survival kit

All Georgians should prepare for stormy weather by assembling an all-hazards kit.

It may take days for help to arrive after a natural or man-made disaster. Prepare a kit with supplies that will allow you and your family to survive for three to seven days without electricity and clean running water. The most critical supply is at least one gallon of drinking water per person per day for at least three days. More water is needed for cooking and hygiene.

Besides water, an all-hazards kit should include nonperishable foods, a hand-operated can opener, first-aid kit, important papers, battery-powered radio, NOAA weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries. A detailed list of recommended contents for an all-hazards kit is available at

Purchase flood insurance

In addition to an all-hazards kit, many Georgians should look into buying flood insurance.

“The entire state is vulnerable to impacts from tropical systems,” he said. “While storm surge along the coast and wind damage receive the most attention, inland flooding is a concern statewide from the coastal plain to the mountains.”

Most homeowner insurance policies don’t include flood damage, so it is necessary to purchase an additional policy. Most policies are fairly inexpensive but must be purchased at least 30 days before you need it so it has time to take effect.

Don’t forget tornadoes

“Tornadoes are always a risk in Georgia,” Stooksbury said. “While they are more common in the spring and fall, they can occur at any time.”

In the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a sturdy building. The lowest level away from windows is the safest place, he said. If one isn't around, lie down in a ditch or low spot where cars or trees won't blow on top of you. Don't stay in a car.

“Regardless of where you seek shelter, protect your body, especially your head and neck, from flying debris,” he said. “Use pillows, blankets, coats or whatever you can find to protect yourself.”

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.

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