VIRGINIA (WFXR) – Devastating tornadoes hit Tennessee earlier this week, killing more than two dozen people and leaving countless injured or homeless. The storms hit just after midnight when many people were asleep.
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air. They can strike quickly with little to no warning and can cause extensive damage when they touch down.
With the right weather conditions, tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time. In the southern states, peak tornado season starts in March and lasts through May. They are more likely between 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., but have occurred at all hours.
Tornadoes are not uncommon here around the Commonwealth. Over the last decade, Virginia has seen around 24 tornadoes per year. Last year, Franklin County saw an EF-3 tornado tear through the county. Two people were hurt, but no one died in the storm.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management wants you to be prepared. It tweeted a reminder that it’s better to be safe than caught off guard. It also linked viewers to this helpful guide for a full list of tornado safety tips.
Some of the key points in the safety guide want to prepare you for before the storm spins up. When a tornado watch is issued, that means tornadoes are possible. There are some steps you should take to prepare. These include:
- Identify a safe spot in your home, school, or work location before the threat of a tornado. That way you can have a plan of where to go before a tornado warning is issued.
- Be alert to changing weather. Tune in to local media for the most up to date information.
- Not every tornado will look the same, but they do have similar warnings signs. These can include dark, greenish skies, large hail, large, low-lying cloud formations, rotation, or a loud roaring noise like a freight train.
- Have an emergency communication plan in place for you and your family.
- Build an emergency kit.
- Make sure to have at least two ways to receive weather alerts. One of the fastest ways to receive weather alerts is through the NOAA Weather Radio. Local television stations, such as WFXR, and radio stations will also air watches and warnings. You can also receive alerts from your cell phone or other mobile device.
The National Weather Service may issue a tornado watch or tornado warning during severe weather events. A Tornado Watch indicates that weather conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms that are capable of producing tornadoes. When a Tornado Warning is issued, that means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by a weather radar. You should take shelter immediately, but the type of shelter you take depends on where you are.
- If you are in a sturdy building, go to a safe room. This could be a basement, a cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to an inside room like a closet or hallway. You should stay away from windows, doors, and outer windows.
- If you are inside of a mobile home, get out immediately and go to the closest sturdy building or storm shelter.
- If you are outside, find a ditch or area lower than the ground to lie down in. You are safety laying down in a low, flat location, than you are inside of a mobile home.
- In every location you are in, make sure to protect your head from flying objects or falling debris.
After the storm has passed, there are several steps you should take.
- Stay informed. There could be another bad storm on the way, especially during a tornado outbreak. Tune in to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay up to date about tornado watches and warnings.
- Don’t try to move anyone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger.
- Use your cell phone only for emergency calls.
- Stay out of damaged buildings, especially if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
Tornadoes are not as common in Virginia as they are in other locations, but now is the time to prepare. That way, if a storm does spin up a twister, you’ll be in the best position.