Are you prepared for severe weather?

The annual statewide tornado drill is set to be held next Tuesday, March 15th. Are you, your family, and your business prepared?

Sure, this is tornado related, but a lot of this applies to sever weather in general (like a HURRICANE). Take a second, read this over, and GET PREPARED.

  • Do you know what happens when a tornado watch or warning is issued? Do you know the difference between a watch and a warning?
  • Do you know how to receive severe weather alerts?
  • Do you have a plan at home in case of severe weather?
  • Does your school or business have a severe weather plan?

Governor Bob McDonnell has proclaimed March 15, 2011, to be Tornado Preparedness Day in the Commonwealth.

Over the last three years, 62 tornadoes have touched down within Virginia, injuring more than 220 people and causing $48 million in damage. Tornadoes in Virginia occur much less often than in other areas such as the deep south (“Dixie Alley”) and across the traditional definition of tornado alley, but they are far from a non-threat for most of Virginia. Tornadoes can manifest both from spring and summer severe thunderstorms, as well as part of landfalling hurricanes, but the vector doesn’t matter; tornadoes in any form can be a serious threat to both life and property. While significant tornadoes – especially within the city limits – are rare, they are not nonexistent. It’s important to understand the threats that tornadoes and severe weather pose, and have a plan in the event that severe weather occurs where you are. To that end, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is coordinating a statewide tornado drill on March 15th.

“Everyone needs to know what to do if a tornado warning is issued for their area,” said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of EmergencMemoriesy Management. “Every family, business and school should hold a tornado drill at least once a year. The more we practice, the better we can respond during an emergency. And everyone needs access to NOAA Weather Radio.

VDEM has put together several resources to help you plan for the tornado drill and tornadoes and severe weather in general.

Here are some important things to remember when creating a severe weather plan:

  • know the signs of severe weather.
  • have a NOAA Weather Radio to receive severe weather alerts as they are issued
  • know the difference between a WATCH (meaning that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes during the time period) and a WARNING (a severe thunderstorm or tornado has been sighted on the ground or has been indicated by National Weather Service radar)

If you’re in the path of a tornado-warned storm, take cover immediately.

What’s a good place to take cover?

If you’re inside, seek shelter in an interior room, preferably one free of windows. In larger, more open buildings, try to head towards a restroom or interior hallway, or if there’s no time, up against a wall to help protect yourself from falling or flying debris.

If you’re in an automobile or outdoors, take shelter in a nearby structure, or if none are available, lie down in a ditch or culvert. Trying to outrun a storm may inadvertently lead you into the core of the storm, where heavy downpours, strong, damaging winds, and even large hail can make the situation much worse. You may also find that your planned escape route has been cut off by falling debris, downed trees or power lines, or flooded or washed-out roads. Alternatively, changes in the track of the tornado may take you closer to the storm than if you had stopped the car.

If you’re in a mobile home – in simplest terms, you’re better off outdoors than you are in a mobile home. Seek shelter shelter in a sturdy, permanent, outdoor structure or lie face down in a ditch or culvert until the storm passes. Do not stay in your mobile home. According to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of the National Weather Service, 52% of the 479 tornado deaths in the period from 2002 to 2009 occurred in mobile homes, which, despite their prevalence, still only account for 6.6% of all housing types nationwide.

Make sure, no matter where you are, that you continue to monitor your weather radio or local media for further information and remain sheltered until the danger has passed.

If your household, business, school, or other organization plans on participating in next Tuesday’s severe weather drill, please take a minute and provide VDEM with some basic information about your group and your emergency plans. If you’re not planning on participating next Tuesday, anytime is a great time to hold a tornado drill. There’s plenty of information at the VDEM website about how to prepare for and execute a tornado drill.

Have you or your organization ever held a tornado drill before? What’s worked well? What hasn’t?

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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