Surviving an EF 5 Tornado - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Surviving an EF 5 Tornado

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Lee County EMA Director Chief James Howell Lee County EMA Director Chief James Howell
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Many are still cleaning up from the devastating storms that tore through several southern states a week ago.

19 confirmed tornadoes ripped through North and Central Alabama, leaving towns flattened and hundreds dead.

If storms of the same intensity hit here, how would south Georgia stand up?

Albany is not so different from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. What you may not know is builders have guidelines set up by local governments about the wind strengths a home has to be able to withstand, and let me tell you it's not much.

The devastation was seen block after block; flattened homes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The before picture could have looked similar to this neighborhood in Lee County.

"200 mile per hour winds would basically level a neighborhood like this," said  Lee County EMA Director Chief James Howell.

That's because these homes are built to withstand winds just up to 90 miles per hour, because in our digging we found that is the state's code requires. There is a small line in Camilla that requires stronger structures.

"On the far end of an EF 1 your already reaching an excess of 100 mile per hour winds," said Howell.

The tornado that blew through Hackleburg, Alabama was two times that; an EF 5 at 200 miles per hour. During that kind of storm there's only one safe place. "The only safe place in the event of an EF-5 is underground."

Unless you've got a underground storm shelter, in southwest Georgia that's a problem.

"Unfortunately the terrain we have here and the high water level, cellars and basements are not a common thing," said Howell.

Which is why EMA officials remind citizens an interior windowless room is the safest place. They recommend watching the weather daily and using a weather radio and also taking a serious look at the trees in your yard.

"That one single tree right there weights way more than what a vehicle weights if you dropped a vehicle on your house you know what the outcome would be."

It can mean death. EMA officials say you shouldn't live your life in fear of a tornado but you should also heed tornado warning and take precautions.

EMA Officials say the type of storms that rolled through southern states don't just pop up, they know days in advance strong conditions may exist, which is why its important to heed weather sirens and alerts always on WALB-TV.

Builders can chose to re-enforce a structure for stronger winds in Georgia, but the construction can be more costly.

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