Weather sirens to sound today

Published 12:51 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sirens meant to alert locals of inclement weather will sound today at 10 a.m., but in this case, this is a drill.

Covington County Emergency Management Agency Director Susan Harris said the 21 sirens will sound this morning in order to give locals a chance to practice evacuation and other safety procedures for dangerous weather – specifically tornadoes. The drills are all part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

“March, April and May is our peak season for tornadoes,” Harris said. “We are going to do the outside warnings so everybody can practice their drills.”

The timing for today’s drills is meant to coincide with suggestions from the National Weather Service, which recommended this morning to correlate with the weekly NOAA All-Hazards Radio Test.

Harris said the sirens cover most of Andalusia and Opp, are present at all county schools, and are in close enough proximity to city schools to be heard by students and faculty.

“We usually do the sirens the first Wednesday of each month, weather permitting,” Harris said. “But tomorrow, we will do it for the severe weather week.”

Each day during Severe Weather Awareness Week, a special focus is given to different types of severe weather, with tornadoes as today’s subject.

According to information from the NWS in Birmingham, Alabama has two main tornado seasons. The months of March through May are known as the Spring Severe Weather Season. A Fall Severe Weather Seasons also exists from November through mid-December.

Wind speeds in tornadoes can range from 65 miles per hour to 318 miles per hour, the highest tornado wind speed ever recorded.

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in and close to the watch area. A watch is normally issued for a large area covering numerous counties. The watch is intended to give people time to review safety rules. A Tornado Warning means that a developing tornado has been detected by National Weather Service Doppler Radar or has been reported on the ground by reliable sources. A Tornado Warning is typically issued for a portion of counties at a time and usually lasts no more than 45 minutes. If a Tornado Warning is issued for your county, you should seek shelter immediately.

If you are in a home or small business during a tornado, go to the basement or to a small interior room such a closet, bathroom or interior hallway without windows on the lowest level. If possible, get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table or use a mattress to protect yourself from flying debris.

Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head. If available, put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect yourself from head injuries.

If you are in a large business, school, hospital, shopping center, factory or similar structure, go to the designated shelter area. If a shelter area is not available, the best place to go is an interior hallway on the lowest level.

Stay away from the structurally weaker portions of buildings, such as windows and rooms with expansive roofs, which are more likely to collapse when tornadoes strike.

If you are in a mobile home, get out and take shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter. If there is not one nearby, take shelter in the most interior room that has no windows, such as a interior bathroom or closet.

If you are caught in your vehicle, get out and into a sturdy shelter. If one is not available nearby, get to a low spot and cover your head from flying debris. Do not take cover under an overpass as this does not provide adequate shelter during a tornado and can actually cause increased wind speeds due to a tunneling effect.

Although not expected in Covington County, weather capable of producing tornadoes is forecast in central and northern parts of the state as early as tomorrow.