The state is urging North Carolinians to prepare and practice safety plans in case severe weather strikes.

North Carolina is traditionally an active tornado and severe thunderstorm state and spring is peak season, although severe weather can occur at any time of year.

Governor Roy Cooper has declared this week as Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

“Spring often brings strong storms to North Carolina and we need to take steps now to be ready,” Governor Cooper said. “Know the risks, make sure your family has an emergency plan in place, and stay alert to weather reports to help keep you and your loved ones safe.”

Schools and government buildings statewide will hold tornado drills Wednesday, March 7, at 9:30 a.m. to practice their emergency plans. Test messages will be broadcast on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios and the Emergency Alert System.

“Taking the time to practice what you’ll do when severe weather strikes can help save lives,” Governor Cooper said. “I urge everyone to participate in the statewide tornado drill.”

North Carolina is no stranger to severe weather.

In 2017, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued 85 tornado warnings in North Carolina and recorded 30 actual tornadoes. There were 57 flash flood warnings issued last year and 104 flood or flash flood events across the state.

In addition, the NWS issued 561 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded 548 severe wind events. Numerous severe storms, flash flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes caused severe damage and loss of life.

Tornadoes form during severe thunderstorms when winds change direction and increase in speed. These storms can produce large hail and damaging winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. A tornado can develop rapidly with little warning, so having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly.

Emergency Management officials recommend the following safety tips:

Develop a family emergency plan so each member knows what to do, where to go and who to call during an emergency.

~If thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.

~Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room away from windows.

~Know the terms: WATCH means severe weather is possible. WARNING means severe weather is occurring and you should take shelter immediately.

~Assemble an emergency supply kit for use at home or in your vehicle. Make sure to include a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water.

~If driving when a tornado occurs, leave your vehicle immediately to seek shelter in a safe structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle and do not stop under an overpass or bridge. If no shelter is available, take cover in a low-lying flat area.

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