Officials offer tips for storm season

LAWRENCEVILLE - With much of metro Atlanta hit hard by recent severe weather, the good news is Gwinnett avoided the kind of damage seen in nearby counties.

The reality, though, is that more severe weather is likely on the way. The spring and summer months - storm season - are nearly upon us.

According to the National Weather Service, at least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Georgia late Wednesday night and into Thursday. The storms are responsible for one death and millions of dollars in damage, according to estimates.

"To me, that serves as a wake-up call to people in the metro area that we are subject to severe weather and tornadoes," said Gwinnett Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge. "We have to remember to always be vigilant, be prepared and have a family emergency plan."

That emergency plan includes a kit consisting of items such as a flashlight, battery-powered radio and maybe even a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio to monitor weather.

The increased number of storms, Rutledge said, coupled with a growing county with more people and structures means an increased number of emergency calls.

And while we can't control the weather, Rutledge offered a few measures we can take to help minimize its effects on us.

For thunder/lightning storms:

· Get inside, if you can.

· Turn off all electrical appliances.

· Don't shower or use the telephone.

· Stay away from windows and doorways.

If you believe your house has been struck by lightning, Rutledge said you should check the attic and basement immediately and inspect every room for signs of fire.

"If you see sockets blown out or if they're charred, if you smell an electrical smell, go outside and call the fire department," he said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

If you're caught outside in a storm, Rutledge said, seek a substantial structure such as a park bathroom, a vehicle or pavilion with walls. You should never huddle together or seek shelter under a tree.

For tornadoes:

· Get inside, if possible.

· Go to the basement or structure's lowest level.

· If no basement, close all doors and go to center of structure, away from windows and outside walls to avoid shattered glass and debris.

While sometimes severe weather can appear seemingly out of nowhere, there are often signs such as approaching storm clouds or thunder or lightning in the distance that can serve as indicators.

Be proactive versus reactive, Rutledge said.

"We don't need to ignore warnings, we need to take them very seriously," Rutledge said. "(Last week) showed us exactly why."