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DEAR ABBY: Again the other morning the news was about the terrible losses from a tornado striking in the middle of the night -- this time in south Georgia. Could you please tell people about weather-warning radios? Sadly, they seem to be a well-kept secret.

After tornadoes struck at night in other states last year, I bought weather radios for each of my children's homes and for myself. They're relatively inexpensive ($30 to $60) and can be tucked in a corner, out of the way. What they do is respond to a radio signal from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) when dangerous weather is imminent. The signal turns on the radio to alert people.

The radio at our house is in the hallway outside our bedrooms. It's tuned to the nearest weather station, with the volume up all the way. At 2:30 a.m. on the night the storm hit Georgia, we were awakened by the signal and the warning of a potentially dangerous storm. Luckily, we had only torrential rain and some tree-trimming wind. At least we knew what was happening and could have made it to the basement if things had gotten worse.

We are blessed with attentive weather people on television and at NOAA who notify us of impending storms. However, at night there is no better way to learn of impending bad weather than from a weather radio. I'd rather be awakened for a storm that doesn't turn bad than chance what happened to those poor folks in Georgia.

Thanks, Abby, for giving me a forum. I hope you'll consider this letter worth printing. -- JANET H. MAHANNAH, GASTONIA, N.C.

DEAR JANET: Your letter is certainly worth space in my column. I'm sure there are many other individuals like me who have never heard of weather-warning radios.

After reading your letter, I made some inquiries about NOAA Weather Radios, which continually broadcast National Weather Service forecasts, warnings and other important weather information. They can be programmed to receive information specific to a certain geographic area.

The NOAA Weather Radio is the one government-operated radio system that provides direct warnings to the public for natural and manmade hazards -- from floods to forest fires to oil spills.

The radios are available at many retail stores that sell electronic appliances, marine supply stores, truck stops, cable shopping networks, mail-order catalogs and the Internet. They cost from $20 to $80 depending on the model.

For people who live in areas where violent storms occur, a NOAA weather radio could be a lifesaver. However, while most areas in the country are covered by the NOAA warning system, a few areas may not be, so ask at your local National Weather Service office before you purchase the weather radio.

DEAR ABBY: In your column, you have indicated your interest in thoughts on friendship. I am a member of the Jesuit community in Wauwatosa, Wis. During a clergy renewal semester at Notre Dame University, I developed the following statement:

"A true and genuine friend, one of those very few special persons who enter my life, is one with whom I can share my brokenness without feeling cheapened." -- RENEWED CLERGYMAN

DEAR RENEWED: Your words are beautiful, and I know they'll resonate with my readers as they did with me.

P.S. Please don't feel "cheapened in your brokenness." None of us emerge from the kiln of life without a few cracks, which lend character to the finish.

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