Duke Prepared As NC Marks 'Severe Weather Week'

Duke monitors weather daily during storm-heavy season

With spring quickly approaching - and the weather that comes with it - Gov. Bev Perdue  has declared this week "Severe Weather Awareness Week" in North Carolina and is asking residents to stay informed about severe storms and tornadoes.

Last week, tornadoes ravaged portions of the Midwest and South. In North Carolina, tornadoes packing winds as high as 130 miles per hour struck portions of Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties.

Last year, the National Weather Service issued more than 200 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 63 tornadoes, more than twice the state average. In addition, more than 1,500 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or large hail were recorded last year.

"Although we are constantly monitoring weather situations and updating our community about potentially severe weather, it is imperative that our community members stay informed, familiarize themselves with what to do in an emergency weather event at Duke and also establish a personal plan for their safety while at home during severe storms," said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke's emergency coordinator and vice president for administration.

As part of its severe weather preparedness plan, Duke monitors local forecasts on a daily basis and receives alerts through a subscription weather service. Each week, a liaison from Duke Police also participates in a live, web conference call with the local National Weather Service. If a forecast calls for the potential for severe weather, Cavanaugh, as Duke's emergency coordinator, is contacted, and meets with Duke's Severe Operations Team to review plans and preparations.

If weather conditions warrant, Duke uses its DukeALERT emergency notification system to inform Duke community members of severe weather. In addition to outdoor warning sirens, text messages, email blasts, and an emergency telephone line, Duke maintains the DukeALERT website to provide up-to-date information during severe weather or on-campus emergencies. Duke also utilizes alert bars on the Duke.edu homepage and administration sites.

March, May and November are considered the busiest months for tornadoes in North Carolina. However, lightning, floods and hail can also occur. Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Damaging winds are equally as dangerous.

"Already this year, we have seen tornadoes sweep through several of our western counties," Perdue said. "That type of weather is almost unheard of for January in North Carolina. And we all saw in 2011 just how quickly these storms can strike and how dangerous they can become. That is why it is so critical to have emergency plans in place."

More information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness is available at ReadyNC.org and ncem.org.