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Schools drill for weather crisis

Second-graders at Catawba Springs Elementary School take part in a tornado drill Wednesday as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.
Jenny Walling / Lincoln Times-News

Students at schools across the county crouched in hallways with their hands over their heads Wednesday as part of the state’s Severe Weather Awareness Week.
Lyle Back, coordinator for community schools and special projects, said the drills — designed to prepare students for tornadoes — showed how organized students and staff could be in the event of an actual emergency.
“It all went very well, according to plan,” Back said. “It demonstrates that we do have a good emergency plan in effect.”
Gov. Mike Easley declared March 14 to 20 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina and designated Wednesday as the day for statewide tornado drills in government buildings and schools.
Susan Spake, director of Emergency Management for Lincoln County, said the drills are especially important considering the extreme weather events the county has seen recently.
“With the situation we had with our weather this past year … it’s really vital that not just schools — but businesses and people in their homes — know what to do in that type of situation,” Spake said.
The storm this month that included winds gusting at around 60 mph had the potential to do major damage and cause injuries, Spake said.
Luckily, no one was hurt during the storm, and Spake said many residents did take the correct safety precautions.
“We’ve had a lot of people tell us that during the wind storm they went to their safe places in their houses,” she said. “In that type of wind, that’s really what people should have done.”
The safest place to go during a tornado or severe wind event is underground in a basement or storm cellar, said Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.
If there is no basement, an inner hallway or smaller, inner room without windows like a bathroom or closet is the safest alternative, Beatty said.
“Try to find something sturdy you can get under to protect yourself from flying debris or a collapsed roof,” Beatty said.
Two confirmed tornadoes touched down in Lincoln County in 2003, and 31 were reported statewide.
While no fatalities resulted from the storms, more than $2.9 million in damage was reported statewide.
Spake said residents should take time to identify safe areas in their homes, businesses and churches. It’s also a good idea to review and replace nonperishable items and things like medication in emergency preparedness kits.
“This is an excellent time to do it while everyone’s focus is on being aware of potential weather events,” Spake said.
—————For more information about storm preparation and identifying safe areas, call Lincoln County Emergency Management at 704-736-8511.

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