WEATHER: Virginia Tornado Drill is at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 20

Posted at 5:58 AM, Mar 19, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The state-wide, annual tornado drill hosted by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management will be Tuesday, March 20 at 9:45 a.m. Everyone in the Commonwealth is encouraged to participate in this drill, no matter where you are at that time. You can registeryour school, workplace, household, etc. at this link here. And learnhow to conduct a proper tornado drill by clicking here.

Michael Cline, state coordinator for emergency management, says “Last year 51 twisters hit Virginia, the second highest number on record. But more importantly, communities are still healing from the effects of those tornadoes that killed 10 people, injured more than 100, and destroyed 212 homes and 17 businesses. It’s vitally important that everyone know what to do if a tornado warning is issued for their area.” The National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning.

The best guidance is to get into the sturdiest building you can, into the most interior room, at the lowest level possible (basements or storm shelters are ideal), and away from windows and glass. If you are in a car, mobile home, or trailer, it is safer to abandon those options than to remain in them. Move to another stronger structure, or run to an open area away from those structures and get as low and small as you can, face-down. Other tips: wear a helmet, surround yourself with blankets, pillows, comforters, or mattresses when you can, wear shoes and extra layers of clothes, and keep your cell phone and ID on your person. You can visit Ready Virginia's page here for more helpful information on preparing for severe weather.

Here is some important terminology to know during severe weather:
Tornado Watch: A region that may experience severe thunderstorms developing that could produce tornadoes. This means you should stay "weather aware" during the time-frame of the Watch, paying attention to updates from alerting outlets (like CBS 6, local radio stations, emergency alert radios, websites, etc.). Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.
Tornado Warning: A warning will be issued if a tornado may soon touch-down (radar-indicated or spotter-indicated), has already touched-down, or is still on the ground. Take your tornado safety precautions immediately! This warning will be for a specific area (towns/cities and portions of counties, usually) currently impacted or that may soon be impacted. Local National Weather Service offices issue Warnings.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: A region that may experience severe thunderstorms developing that could produce wind gusts in excess of 58 mph, hail an inch in diameter or larger, dangerous lightning, and potentially flooding. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: A warning will be issued if a thunderstorm reaches "severe limits," where it is strong enough to producing damaging wind gusts, large hail, and in some cases flash flooding. Dangerous, frequent lightning can usually be expected with severe storms, as well. Local National Weather Service offices issue Warnings.
Tornadoes can occur from severe thunderstorms, too, so what may initially be a severe thunderstorm warning may be upgraded to a tornado warning if conditions warrant.

The Storm Prediction Center has an excellent FAQ page here that you can visit for more information about tornadoes and severe weather safety. You can also get help preparing for disasters at the American Red Cross.

Virginia averages approximately 11 tornadoes per year (1951-2011 average is 10.78). The most tornadoes on record in a year in Virginia occurred in 2004 with 85 confirmed tornadoes. Of those 85, 40 occurred in a single day, September 17, as a result of Hurricane Ivan being a prolific tornado producer in our region. In recent memory, 2008 was another high-count year for Virginia with 39 confirmed tornadoes. As of this posting, there have already been three confirmed tornadoes in Virginia, including one in Mathews Co. Click here to read the details on that tornado. You can read about the other two confirmed tornadoes from southwest Virginia on March 2 here.

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.