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TEMA Wants Tennesseans to be Ready for Severe Weather

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | 06:58am

Severe Weather Awareness Week, Feb. 16 to Feb. 22, Highlights Tornado, Flood, Thunderstorm and Lightning Threats

Meteorologists Remember 1974 Tornado Super Outbreak


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and National Weather Service (NWS) are asking Tennesseans to make planning and preparing for severe weather a priority during Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week, Feb. 16, to Feb. 22, 2014.

“We’ve already experienced multiple rounds of severe winter weather in Tennessee and all indications are we may have an active spring,” said TEMA Director James Bassham.  “We can’t wait until the tornado is upon us to think about how we protect ourselves from it.  We have to prepare now.”

Throughout the week, NWS, TEMA and other support­ing groups will conduct educational activities and drills to help people prevent injuries and deaths from tornadoes, damaging winds, flash floods, lightning, and hail.

The NWS will use the week to focus on severe weather preparedness, safety and warnings.  Specific weather threats such as tornadoes or lightning, along with NOAA Weather Radio and Skywarn storm spotters, will be highlighted on individual days. 

"Severe weather is most common during the Spring months of March, April and May across Tennessee but it can occur any month of the year." said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tom Johnstone.  "It's important for all Tennesseans to pay attention to the weather, have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings, and have a plan to get underground or to the interior of the lowest level of a well-made structure when warnings are issued."

Tennessee’s Tornado History

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.  Tornadoes can appear without warning and be invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears.

This year commemorates the 40th anniversary of the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history. 

On April 3 and April 4, 1974, 148 twisters touched down in 13 states, leaving 330 people dead and 5,848 injured. 

In Tennessee, 50 people died as 28 tornadoes blew through 19 counties in middle and east Tennessee.  Much of the business section of Etowah was destroyed and there was considerable damage in or near the communities of Cookeville, Estill Springs, Fayetteville, Cleveland, Maryville, Blair, and Erin.

A little more than a year ago, Middle Tennessee recorded the largest January tornado outbreak in its history, when 22 touched down on Jan. 30, 2013.  This date also marks the second biggest outbreak of tornadoes for any month in Middle Tennessee history. 

This year’s statewide tornado drill will be initiated with a special test around 9:30 a.m., CST, on Wed., Feb. 19, 2014. 

The NWS also will host a storm spotter training course, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sat., March 1, at the Trevecca Nazarene University Conference Center, 333 Murfreesboro Pike in Nashville. The agenda and registration is available at:

Tornado Preparedness

First, familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify a tornado hazard:  a Tornado Watch indicates that conditions are right for a tornado to develop; a Tornado Warning indicates a tornado has developed or could develop within minutes.

If at home, go to a basement or storm cellar, away from windows.  If neither is available, find shelter under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a work bench or heavy table and hold on to it. A room in the center of the house is usually safer than the outer rooms.

If at work or school, go to the basement or inside hallway at the lowest level. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias or large hallways.

If outdoors, get inside a building, or lie in a ditch or low-lying area. Avoid water-filled ditches. Use arms to protect head and neck and stay low to the ground.

Never try to outrun a tornado. If in a vehicle, get out immediately and take shelter in a nearby building, ditch or low-lying area between the vehicle and tornado.

If in a mobile home, get out and take shelter in a building with a strong foundation or lie in a ditch or low-lying area between the tornado and mobile home.

A copy of the Severe Weather Awareness Guide, from TEMA and NWS, is available at

The guide contains more severe weather preparedness information and includes a disaster supplies checklist.

For more information on Severe Weather Awareness Week and on preparing for severe weather, visit TEMA’s website at, or download TEMA’s ReadyTN smartphone application,


Tennessee Emergency Management Agency | Press Releases