Cherokee County Knows Tornadoes; Emergency Management Director Shares Lessons for all Georgians

Renee CornelisonOver the past 15 years, Cherokee County experienced more tornadoes than any other county in Georgia.  With the often turbulent spring weather season approaching, we reached out to Cherokee County Office of Homeland Security Emergency Management Director Renee Cornelison to discuss tornado preparedness and a 2011 tornado that wreaked havoc on Cherokee County.

Q: Are Cherokee county residents more cognizant of tornado prep because of this history?

A: I think people everywhere are becoming more conscious of severe weather because of media coverage as well as social media.  Video and photographs can be found immediately after a tornado or other severe weather events – sometimes even as the storm is occurring. Tornadoes are very powerful and unpredictable.  Just knowing how much damage they can cause provides pretty convincing arguments when you’re encouraging people to plan.

Q: Is there a particularly memorable tornado from recent years that occurred in Cherokee County?

A: On Labor Day 2011 an EF-1 tornado moved northeast out of Cobb County and produced damage along a path from the Cobb County line all the way through Cherokee County to the Pickens County line. We had already activated the Emergency Operations Center and were watching the storm using the camera located on top of the building. We were able to see debris and flashes as transformers were blown on power poles as the tornado approached.  Our EOC is underground on three sides, so we were already in our safe location. Luckily our building did not receive a direct hit, but nearby homes and businesses were damaged.

Q: What is your advice to both Cherokee and non-Cherokee county residents going into the time of year when we may see an increased possibility of tornadoes?

A: I have three main pieces of advice for all Georgians regarding tornado safety:

  1. Learn the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.  If a tornado warning is issued for your area, go to your safe place immediately.
  2. Have a tornado safety plan for home and work. Know the best place to take shelter if necessary in either place.
  3. Have more than one way to get a tornado or severe weather warning.  A NOAA Weather Radio is one good choice but be sure to have another one such as an app on a smart phone. Residents should never rely only on outdoor warning sirens because they are designed to alert people who are outside at places such as a ball parks, shopping centers, etc. and may not have another way to receive a warning.

For additional preparedness tips and information about what to do before, during and after a tornado, visit the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security Ready Georgia website at