Severe Weather Preparedness Week

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Spring is just around the corner, and it is time to start thinking about how to stay safe during severe weather. March 1-7 is designated as North Carolina Severe Weather Preparedness Week and is a great opportunity to start thinking about how to protect yourself and your family in the event of severe weather.

Although tornadoes can occur at any time of year, March through June is the peak tornado season in North Carolina. Last year there were 36 recorded tornadoes in North Carolina that killed one and injured 34 people. Combined with damages from almost 700 additional severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and/or hail, severe weather caused over $25 million dollars in damage last year in North Carolina alone.

Extension Factsheet attach_file


This publication offers information on preparation for tornado season in North Carolina.

Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

A tornado watch indicates that weather conditions may cause tornadoes to develop in your area. A watch does not mean that a tornado has been sighted, but you should be prepared for a possible tornado at any moment. You don’t need to move to a shelter, but stay tuned to a radio or TV and be alert for threatening weather conditions. Have a safe shelter prepared and accessible.  

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel has actually been sighted or indicated by Doppler radar. The warning covers a short period of time and specific small areas. The warning will indicate where the tornado was detected and the area through which it is expected to move. If you are in the expected path of the storm, take shelter immediately.

Do not go outside to look for the tornado. Go to a below-ground location, if possible. If not, stay on the lowest level of your house. A storm cellar, root cellar, center laundry room, bathroom with no exterior walls or a center hallway in your house are possible choices. Stay away from windows. In a commercial structure, go to a designated storm shelter area. Always wear shoes when you take cover.

Make sure you have something to cover up with. Pillows, rugs, blankets, sleeping bags, or a mattress could help to protect you from flying debris. Above all protect your head, neck and upper body. Wear a helmet (bicycle, football, baseball, motorcycle, hard hat, etc) if you have one.

Unfortunately, there are no safety rules or guidelines that will keep you safe 100% of the time during severe weather. Planning ahead and knowing what to do in the event of a tornado should reduce, but will not totally eliminate, your chances of being seriously injured or killed in a tornado. The good news is that you can survive most tornadoes. The key to survival is planning – knowing what you need to do to be safe before a tornado threatens.

Extension Factsheet attach_file

Tornado Preparedness

This publication covers how to spot a tornado, where to go during a storm and tornado survival rules and tips.

Additional resources: