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WASHINGTON (AP) - Heading into May, the peak month for tornadoes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are teaming up to promote National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

Last year, more than 500 people died as a result of tornadoes. This year, the National Weather Service has added new technology for more accurate forecasts and there is new language in tornado watches and warnings to get people's attention.

FEMA director Craig Fugate says the number one thing to consider is for families to have a communication plan, so everyone can be accounted for in case cell phone service has been disabled.

The goal of National Severe Weather Preparedness Weekis increase weather-readiness. The tips are know your risk, take action and be an example.

Why Worry About Thunderstorms?

Lightning...

  • Causes an average of 55-60 fatalities and 400 injuries each year
  • Occurs with all thunderstorms
  • Costs more than $1 billion in insured losses each year

Tornadoes...

  • Cause an average of 60-65 fatalities and 1,500 injuries each year
  • Can produce wind speeds in excess of 200 mph
  • Can be 1 mile wide and stay on the ground over 50 miles

Straight-line Winds...

  • Can exceed 125 mph
  • Can cause destruction equal to a tornado
  • Are extremely dangerous to aviation

Flash Floods and Floods...

Are the No. 1 cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms, more
than 90 fatalities each year

Hail...

  • Can be larger than a softball (5 inches in diameter)
  • Causes more than $1 billion in crop and property damage
    each year

National Weather Service Severe Weather Guide(PDF)

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