SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK: Planning ahead and finding your safe place from tornadoes

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Tornadoes can happen during any time of the year, but they’re more likely to form in Virginia during the spring and summer months. As the severe weather season approaches, it’s important to be prepared ahead of the severe storms.

How Do Tornadoes Form?

Tornadoes form in strong severe thunderstorms. There is a change in wind direction between the surface and upper levels of the atmosphere, which results in horizontal rotation. As warm, humid air rises, it creates a strong upward lift in thunderstorms. This upward lift can cause the horizontal rotation to turn vertical and drop down from the cloud —becoming a tornado.

What is the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning?

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop in your area. During this time, you want to closely monitor weather conditions and have a plan in place in case a tornado develops later on.

A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, you need to take shelter immediately.

Where are the Best Places to Take Shelter During a Tornado Warning?

If a warning is issued, it’s important to take shelter in a sturdy structure.

The best locations to shelter from a tornado are basements and designated tornado shelters.

If a basement is not available, move to the most interior room in your residence. This is usually a bathroom, closet, or hallway. You’ll want to stay away from windows, outside walls, and doors. Basically, you’ll want as many walls as possible between you and the strong winds outside.

If you’re outside during a tornado warning, try to get inside a sturdy structure. If there is no structure around, get in a ditch and cover your head. Hiding under bridges or overpasses is not recommended as the wind from a tornado will accelerate as it moves through an underpass.

In the event that you’re driving a vehicle, get out of your car and lie flat in a ditch or find a sturdy structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car.

Enhanced Fujita Scale

According to the National Weather Service, the Enhanced Fujita Scale — also known as the EF Scale— became operational on Feb. 1, 2007, and is used to assign a tornado a ‘rating’ based on estimated wind speeds and related damage.

While Southwest and Central Virginia mainly see EF0s and EF1s, stronger tornadoes have occurred in the region.

On Feb. 26, 2016, an EF3 tornado touched down near Evergreen in Appomattox County. There was considerable damage to over 100 homes, as well as many snapped and downed trees.

An EF3 tornado impacted the greater Lynchburg area on April 15, 2018. The tornado damaged a number of businesses and flipped some cars and a truck trailer. In Amherst County, the tornado crossed Highway 130 into the Elon area and strengthened to its maximum intensity with winds estimated at 150 mph. Dozens of homes were badly damaged, some destroyed. Reports indicate many large trees were snapped off and left with no branches.

On the morning of April 19, 2019, an EF3 tornado moved through Franklin County. The storm significantly damaging three structures while heavily damaging or destroying ten outbuildings.

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