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Newton E-911 encourages tornado preparation

COVINGTON — After ice and snow storms brought a tough winter, residents need to start preparing now for tornado season as spring and warm weather approach, according to Newton County Emergency-911 Deputy Director Jody Nolan.

Tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in the state and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Georgia campaign encourages citizens to take the necessary steps now in order to be prepared and informed if and when a tornado hits.

While Newton County Emergency 911 Center has 24 sirens throughout the county, Nolan said there’s a delay from when the center receives the tornado warning from the National Weather Service and the sirens are turned on.

“It’s important to be vigilant to the weather and be sure to check various media sites and apps for weather warnings because there is that delay we have at the center,” Nolan said. “No government agency can stop a tornado so it’s best for residents to have a plan in order to be prepared.”

The sirens can only be heard within .75-mile radius on a clear sunny day, Nolan said.

The last time a tornado touched down in the county was in April 2013 in the town of Mansfield. The EF-2 tornado wreaked havoc on the town within less than two minutes. Nolan noted that the sirens didn’t sound because there was no watch or warning in effect during that time and only a thunderstorm warning issued by the NWS.

“The warning sound devices are efficient if people are outdoors or in densely populated communities. It helps give citizens time to get inside and find a safe location. The sirens are two-toned but since tornado watches can last a few hours, we only turn on the sirens in an event of a tornado warning issued by the NWS,” Nolan said.

Nolan suggests residents have a family plan in motion before a weather-related incident occurs. He encourages residents to find preparation tips at the Ready Georgia campaign website, www.ready.ga.gov.

Director of GEMA/Homeland Security Charley English said March, April and May are the most active tornado months.

“Regardless of when they strike, tornadoes are dangerously unpredictable, so it’s critical to know in advance what to do and where to take shelter immediately,” English said in a press release. “The Ready Georgia campaign provides access to the essential tools and resources families need to be ready for potential emergencies, like tornadoes.”

Ready Georgia website visitors can find information needed to create a disaster supply kit, develop a tailored communications plan and stay informed about potential threats. Families can also access children’s games and activities, while households with pets, elderly, or disabled family members will find specific information on preparing for severe weather.

The Ready Georgia campaign also offers a mobile app which provides easy access to emergency contact information, a list of kit supplies and local shelter locations in the wake of a disaster.