Prepare During Severe Weather Awareness Week

Students, employees encouraged to plan for weather events

Duke has precautions in place when faced with potential severe weather, like when Hurricane Sandy passed North Carolina. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service.

With spring officially returning March 20, many Duke, Durham and North Carolina residents are thinking of sunny days and warm temperatures.

But it's also worthwhile to keep tabs on other weather during "Severe Weather Awareness Week" March 3 to 9. March is one of the deadliest months for tornadoes in North Carolina. Tornadoes usually form during heavy thunderstorms and can produce large hail and damaging winds.

"It's important for people throughout the state to start the spring season with their safety in mind," said Nick Petro, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Raleigh office. "By keeping this fresh on their minds, people can implement what they learn during the week to be ready once severe weather ramps up this month."

In 2012, the National Weather Service issued 60 tornado warnings for North Carolina and recorded 21 tornadoes that caused more than $19 million in damages. In addition, the group issued more than 1,050 severe thunderstorm warnings, and recorded more than 1,200 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or large hail.

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, Duke's Severe Operations Team convenes to review plans and preparations.

Since the start of 2013, Duke's Severe Weather Operations Team has convened eight times to discuss the potential impact of weather on students, employees and campus operations.

"It's important for Duke to constantly monitor weather situations so we can accurately inform students, faculty and staff about potential severe weather," said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke's emergency coordinator and vice president for administration. "This week is a good reminder for Duke community members to 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."

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.

As part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, local residents can visit the National Weather Service's website for tips and information about getting ready for intense spring weather. Topics include developing an emergency plan, building a severe weather kit and how to better understand weather threats.

"We don't want anyone scratching their heads when that first tornado warning is issued," Petro said. "Take time now while the weather is good to get informed and create a plan."

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