Jefferson Lab one of the few places in Hampton Roads with a tornado siren

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-31 18:44:02-04

Newport News, Va. - The Jefferson Lab in Newport News is one of the few places in Hampton Roads with a tornado siren.

It is a siren that will be tested Friday, August 1, like it is on the first Friday of every month and heard by anyone in a 1.5 radius of the lab.

"We want a way to communicate to people who are working outside that we have severe weather," said Mary Logue, Associate Director of the Environment, Safety, Health and Quality Division at the Jefferson Lab. "We have ways to communicate to our employees that are in offices, working inside buildings. But we want to make sure we have the ability to communicate to any of our employees who are working outside."

The Jefferson Lab, located off of Jefferson Avenue, employs more than 700 people, all conducting research to better understand applications in science, like atoms and the structure of a nucleus.  That means there is a lot of equipment at the facility, producing a lot of energy, which raises the question what would happen to all of that energy if a tornado hit?

"If a tornado touched down here, the impact would stay on-site.  We don't really have anything on-site that would cause us to have a concern about our off-site neighbors," said Logue.

In fact, Logue says that much of the testing at the lab, including a large electron beam accelerator, is actually done deep underground and underneath large mounds on-campus called experiment halls.  And because of the location of the equipment, Logue says its impact to the surrounding community would not be catastrophic.

The lab is working to get the siren to automatically sound when a tornado warning is issued for the area.

The sirens were installed at the Jefferson Lab in 2012.