In March 2008, a historic EF-2 tornado tore a 6-mile path through the heart of downtown Atlanta, severely damaging many landmark buildings including the Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center and the Georgia Dome. The next day, two people were killed and hundreds of structures were damaged when another tornado touched down, cutting a 16-mile swath through rural Polk, Floyd and Bartow counties.
In March 2007, a record 21 tornadoes touched down in east, middle and south Georgia. The storms left nine people dead, nearly 100 injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The 143-bed Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus took a direct hit from a violent EF-3 tornado with winds of up to 165 mph. The tornado that hit the hospital was a mile wide and cut an astounding 38-mile path through Webster, Sumter and Macon counties.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. They can appear without warning and be invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. Be prepared to act quickly. Planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival. Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, making advance preparation vitally important.
Prepare for a Tornado
- Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.
- A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
- A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area, and you need to take shelter immediately.
- Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning. Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
- If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
- A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
- If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
Plan to Take Shelter
- If local authorities issue a tornado warning or if you see a funnel cloud, take shelter immediately.
- Stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.
- Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
- After a tornado, be sure to remain out of damaged buildings and stay clear of downed power lines.
- Help injured or trapped people. Check on others who may require special assistance, such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities.