Because they are so common, Georgians often don't realize the hazards thunderstorms can bring. However, all thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, hail and flooding. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe, meaning they have winds of 58 mph or higher, hail at least three-quarters of an inch and may produce a tornado.
The biggest threat from severe thunderstorms is damaging straight-line winds and large hail. These winds occur, on average, 19 days each year in Georgia, in every month of the year. However, they are most frequent in the spring and summer months, peaking in July.
Tuesday, Feb. 7 is Thunderstorm Safety Day. Governor Nathan Deal, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA), and the National Weather Service (NWS) encourage all Georgians to recognize severe weather, develop a plan, and be ready to act when threatening weather approaches:
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
-Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
-Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
What you should do if a thunderstorm is likely in your area:
-Postpone outdoor activities.
-Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer there than outside.
-Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
-Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
-Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
-Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
-Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
-Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
-Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts, or download the Ready Georgia mobile app.
Avoid the following:
-Natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in an open area.
-Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
-Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
-Anything metal â" tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
To help families prepare, Ready Georgia, a statewide emergency preparedness campaign established by GEMA offers the tools needed to make an emergency supply kit, develop a communications plan and stay informed about potential threats. Visitors to Ready Georgia's website, www.ready.ga.gov, can create an online profile to receive a tailored plan for the entire family that includes the specific amount of supplies to put in their household Ready kits. They can also find local emergency contact information, learn about Georgia-specific disasters and read preparedness testimonials from local sports stars. Children's games and activities can be found on the ReadyKids page, and households with elderly or disabled family members and pets will also find specific information on preparing for severe weather. For preparedness on the go, families can also download Ready Georgia's free mobile app to learn how to prepare for emergencies, create family communications plans and more.
For more information on how to prepare for severe weather, visit these websites: www.ready.ga.gov, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc, www.gema.ga.gov. For more information about specific risks in your area, contact your local emergency management agency.