Virginia statewide tornado drill

Posted at 6:54 AM, Mar 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-11 13:11:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Virginia's annual statewide tornado drill was today at 9:45 a.m.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) helps organize this drill in conjunction with the National Weather Service.

CLICK HERE to register for the drill.

TIPS: How to organize and conduct a drill.

Tornadoes can happen any time of year in Virginia.  From 2011-2013, 67 tornadoes struck Virginia, affecting nearly every part of the state, VDEM said.

April 2011 was particularly dangerous, when 10 people died and more than 100 were injured as a result of tornadoes that destroyed at least 210 homes and damaged 1,050 more."

Prepare now for a quick disaster like a tornado with your family so that if one impacts you, you know what to do, no matter where you are (work, home, school, in the car, etc).

First, you should understand the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning. A Watch means the conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. It is not a guarantee that tornadoes will form. A Warning means a severe thunderstorm has shown indication that a tornado is either imminent or is already on the ground. Warnings are most-often issued based on radar-data, but sometimes trained storm spotters can provide crucial "ground-truth" evidence of a tornado on the ground.

In Virginia, spotting tornadoes can be incredibly difficult because of our hilly terrain and trees. Often our tornadoes are also hidden in heavy rainfall. However, if visibility is good, you can look for these signs of a tornado:

  • Strong, persistent rotation in the base of a lowered cloud
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base – tornadoes sometimes have no visible funnel
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes, especially in Virginia, are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
  • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder does. This is the sound of the wind approaching you.
  • If it’s night, look for small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds).  These lights are power lines being snapped by very strong wind, perhaps a tornado.

Students participating in the drill today at school went into interior rooms or hallways away from glass. The goal is always to put as many walls between you and the outside of the building as possible. At home, you should do this, and also get to the lowest level (whether a basement or first floor). Avoid rooms with windows or lots of glass. Get low and protect your vital organs and head. If you have any kind of helmet, put it on.

For kids, it's a good idea to create an emergency backpack filled with supplies like water/juice boxes, snacks, coloring items, a toy, and an information page listing allergies, contact information, home address, etc. You should write out a child ID card with all of that important information. Each member of your family should have an emergency kit like THIS ONE.

Look at this important tornado safety checklist from the Red Cross HERE.

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