When the tornadoes swarmed across the Southeast last spring, I found out quickly how crucial emergency preparedness can be. On the night of April 27, 2011, my daughter and I watched the intermittent news coverage on the television, but we were not overly concerned. Although we went outside to make sure the animals (we have horses, goats, and chickens) were settled for the night, we completed our daily activities with no idea that disaster was looming.
As the evening progressed, thunder, lightning and heavy rain began pounding the house. When it became obvious that the worst of the storm was likely to impact us directly, we discussed where we would go in the event a tornado did hit. About ten minutes after midnight, Glenn Burns from WSB-TV announced that there was a severe rotation approaching Rio (neighboring community) and that “people should seek shelter in their basements.”
What had seemed a remote possibility quickly became a reality. My daughter and I grabbed the kitten, dog, a flashlight and a few comforters off the back of the sofa, and headed for the spare bathroom. And with less than five minute’s notice, devastation hit. As we entered the bathroom, the power went out. The whole house began to shake, the walls vibrated and the pull from the wind made it seem like the house would be suctioned off the ground. It felt like hours, but was actually only minutes.
In the end, the tornado that hit Spalding County was declared an EF3 with a path that was 20 miles long and a half-mile wide. We were one of the fortunate ones… there was property damage, but no loss of life and our home was still standing. The electricity was off for a week and the road was blocked by downed trees for a couple of days, but we discovered that many of our more affected neighbors had no warning because their power went out 30 minutes to an hour before the tornado hit.
Were we prepared? Although we had already packed a First Aid kit, flashlight with batteries, some camping gear and stored water, I realized we were not even close to being ready for the catastrophe. I started doing research and discovered the Ready Georgia website with its Ready checklists and vital information to help people prepare for disasters. In addition, I entered the Ready Georgia and WSB-TV NOAA weather radio giveaway, realizing this device could be a lifesaver when it comes to warning us about upcoming hazardous weather, especially if the power goes out. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I won a radio, and it now has a prominent place on my kitchen counter.
We were extremely lucky the night the tornado hit. However, luck isn’t always on your side, so having a NOAA weather radio and a family communications plan are crucial to being prepared, especially if time is tight. For that reason, I encourage every Georgian to take the time to create a Ready profile by July 15th for a chance to win a weather radio. Remember, you never know if you have five days, five hours or only five minutes of warning before an impending disaster, so being prepared could save your life.
Nanette Chastine won a weather radio in the Ready Georgia and WSB-TV giveaway last year. The Griffin resident created a Ready profile after surviving the tornado that damaged Spalding County last spring.