Q&A on the News

Q: A news report last week noted that a Salvation Army bell ringer stole the funds in the kettle and the bell. It stated that the bell ringer was an employee. Are the bell ringers volunteers or paid employees?

-- Pamela J. Pittman, Marietta

A: The bell ringers can be volunteers or paid workers, Lafeea Watson, communications manager for the Salvation Army, Metro Atlanta Area Command, told Q&A on the News. Metro Atlanta has more than 300 locations, with bell ringers present six days a week (with eight-hour shifts a day). Watson said it is difficult to have volunteers cover all those shifts. "We would lose money if we didn't have someone to fill in where we didn't have volunteers," she said. The number of people who are paid versus volunteers depends on the county and day, as Watson noted that there are more volunteers closer to Christmas Day. Individuals can register to volunteer at salvationarmyatlanta.org.

Q: Who has the final say to determine whether it was a tornado or high winds that did so much destruction in Gwinnett County (in late November)?

-- Fred Costner, College Park

A: The National Weather Service makes the final determination of downburst or tornado damage, Barry Gooden, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Atlanta, told Q&A on the News. "We do so for research and statistical purposes," he wrote in an e-mail. For major weather disasters or multiple hurricanes or tornadoes, a national team could be used instead of a local team, Ron Trumbla, spokesman for the National Weather Service's Southern region, told Q&A on the News. A confirmed tornado twisting at 130 mph on Nov. 30 was responsible for flattening a house, leaving several others uninhabitable and creating a quarter-mile of destruction in unincorporated Buford just north of the Mall of Georgia, officials said.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Staff writer Shane Blatt contributed. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).