As the last patches of snow melted outside, students across the Triangle on Wednesday morning practiced what to do in the event a tornado is spotted nearby.
At 9:30 a.m., a mock tornado warning sent students into their hallways and other secure, windowless areas, where they lined up on their knees with their heads on the floor facing the wall. The statewide drill is part of a broader effort to urge people to be prepared if a tornado or severe thunderstorm strikes.
The peak time for tornadoes in North Carolina comes in April, May and June, with a secondary peak in October and November, said Nick Petro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
Tornadoes occur when cool, dry air from the north clashes with warm, moist air from the south – conditions that are most likely to happen in the coming months.
“We’re still kind of in winter weather mode, but our weather can turn on a dime here,” Petro said. “We need to be prepared.”
When the siren sounded over the PA system at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh, students quietly filed into the hallways and lined up against the walls. There they stayed, like turtles, for about three minutes until the all-clear was given.
Fifth-grader Jaylen Bell is a veteran of these drills, but says it’s still good to have them each year. She remembers getting in a corner closet at home when a tornado ripped through Raleigh on a Saturday in April 2011.
“You still have to know what to do in case this happens,” Jaylen said.
Fifth-grader Brinna Mulligan also remembers the 2011 storm and huddling in a corner of her basement with her family.
“We felt safer there,” she said. “But it was still kind of nerve-wracking.”
The National Weather Service issued 81 tornado warnings in North Carolina last year; a warning means a tornado has been spotted or is likely to form based on radar images.
There were 36 tornadoes in the state last year, resulting in 34 injuries and one death.