A powerful tornado slammed into the city of Atlanta in 2008, leaving one person dead and injuring several dozen more. The twister shocked and frightened residents of a big city who were not prepared for a storm of that magnitude.
People in large cities like Atlanta may not expect to see a twister barreling through city streets, shredding trees in Centennial Olympic Park or shaking large buildings like the CNN Center or the Georgia Dome, but that’s exactly what happened on the evening of March 14, 2008, just after 9:30.
The tornado struck the city with winds of 130 mph and left a swath of damage six miles long that ‘’stretched from west of the World Congress Center to western DeKalb County south of Interstate 20,’’ according to the National Weather Service.
Large metro areas like Atlanta are not as prepared as rural areas in Tornado Alley, the name given to towns and communities along a path prone to tornadoes.
Friday marks the first day of spring, and springtime in the South also marks the time of year when tornadoes are most common, typically March through May, although they can strike anytime.
Georgia has had somewhat of a reprieve over the past three years when it comes to tornadic activity. The state has seen its share of twisters, but loss of life and severe property damage have been kept to a minimum.
But meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Keith Stellman warned on WABE's "A Closer Look" Friday that Georgia residents need to be prepared.
''Everybody needs a plan,'' he said.
There are basic precautions people can take to be ready for dangerous weather, according to Stellman.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, offers a preparedness guide on their website that includes a list of measures that can help people stay safe.
The list includes:
- Buy a battery-powered weather radio.
- Build an emergency kit that includes enough food and water to last at least 72 hours.
- Create a family communication plan.
- During a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately. Head for the basement or lowest level of the structure.
- Build a safe room ─ a basement or an interior room on the first floor is the best choice.
A few other facts people may not realize about tornadoes.
''Tornadoes can strike quickly, with little or no warning,'' according to FEMA. People may not be able to see a twister until its right on top of them, and they can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes right onto land. So being prepared could be crucial to surviving severe weather.