The information below was updated 2/20/18 (originally posted 2/13/13). For a News Grouper post on Virginia’s annual statewide tornado drill (held each March), please see this link. For a March 2017 Virginia Water Radio episode on tornado preparedness and the annual drill, please see this link.
Virginia has had tornadoes in all regions of the state and in every month of the year, so any time is a good time to get tornado ready!
Information on tornadoes, tornado preparedness, and Virginia’s annual statewide tornado drill is available from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s (VDEM) Web page for tornadoes at http://www.vaemergency.gov/prepare-recover/threat/tornadoes/. Other information on preparing for natural disasters and other potential emergencies is available at VDEM’s “Prepare and Recover” Web page at http://www.vaemergency.gov/prepare-recover/; that page includes a link to find the emergency manager for one’s particular locality. Contact VDEM at (804) 897-6500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the location and timing of tornadoes in Virginia (since 1950) is available from The Tornado History Project, online at http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/Virginia/map. The site states that their maps are based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center; that center’s home page is http://www.spc.noaa.gov/.
The Storm Prediction Center also has an “Online Tornado FAQ” page, at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/, which provides information on the tornado formation, forecasting, history, and other topics.
For an overview of tornado activity in recent years, as of April 2017, see Kevin Myatt, “Weather Journal: Tornadoes off to big start after slow year,” Roanoke Times, 4/4/17.
Here are tornado-preparedness and response steps recommended by the VDEM’s Web site (as of 3/5/14):
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio with warning alarm tone and battery backup to get information directly from the National Weather Service. This is the quickest way to learn that a tornado is heading your way. Many models are available.
- Know what tornado watch and tornado warning mean.
- Determine in advance where you will take cover in case of a tornado warning. Keep this safe location uncluttered.
- Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
- A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
- Get a kit of emergency supplies. Store it in your shelter location.
- Practice tornado drills at least once a year.
- When a tornado watch is issued, stay tuned to local radio, TV and NOAA weather radio for further information and possible warnings. Be prepared to take cover.
- When a tornado warning is issued, take cover in your safe location immediately or on the lowest level of the nearest substantial building. Protect your body from flying debris with a heavy blanket, pillows, sofa cushions or mattress.
- If underground shelter is not available, go into a windowless interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
- If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
- If you can’t get to your safe location or the lowest level of a substantial building, here are tips for the following locations:
Open buildings (shopping mall, gym or civic center): Try to get into a restroom or interior hallway. If there is no time, get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. Protect your head by covering it with your arms.
Cars and trucks: Get out of your vehicle and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. A culvert or ditch can provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby. Lie down flat and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
Outdoors. Try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
Mobile homes. Do not stay in mobile homes. Leave immediately and seek shelter inside a nearby sturdy building, or lie down in a ditch away from your home, covering your head with your hands. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.
- Stay in your safe location until the danger has passed.
- Stay out of damaged buildings and stay clear of downed power lines
- Help injured or trapped people. Check on those who might need special assistance, such the elderly, children and people with disabilities.