Preparing for the worst

Published 3:33 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tuesday evening, the Bear Grass and Williamston areas were under a tornado warning. On Monday, the area to the south of Bethel was actually struck by a tornado.

This recent increase in cyclonic activity is nothing new, as North Carolina most often sees tornadoes during the warmer months of the year. However, tornadoes have already hit close to home this year, and Beaufort County residents need to be prepared for what to do if the same happens in this county.

North Carolina experiences an average of 16 tornadoes each year, as well as an average of 39 injuries per year due to tornadoes, according to data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

A tornado’s intensity is measured based on the Fujita scale, from F0 (winds of 42-70 mph) all the way to F5 (261-318 mph).

The Centers for Disease Control offers several tips for residents if a tornado is spotted nearby:

  • Seek shelter in the lowest level of a structure, such as a basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, inner room or closet.
  • Keep away from windows and glass doorways.
  • Cushion, don’t cover, oneself with a mattress. Cover one’s head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris.
  • If caught outside, crouch by a strong structure or lie flat in a low-lying area, such as a ditch.
  • If driving a vehicle and one cannot drive to safety, try to find a ditch far enough away so the car will not cause injuries. Do not seek shelter under a bridge or overpass. Another option is to roll down the windows and keep the car running, so the air bags will deploy and offer some protection.
  • Do not stay in a mobile home in the event of a tornado.

Also, don’t forget the important distinction between watch and warning. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for one to appear, while a tornado warning means one has been spotted in the area.

Knowing what to do during a tornado could mean the difference between life and death. Beaufort County will hopefully not have to experience a tornado this year (or any year), but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.