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Statewide tornado drill looms over Waverly tornado deaths

Posted at 12:00 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 17:47:44-04

Governor Terry McAuliffe has declared March 22 as Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia. This comes less than a month after eight tornadoes swept through the Commonwealth, killing five people and damaging more than 400 structures.

“We were reminded last month just how vulnerable Virginia is to tornadoes, and we saw their devastating effects,” said State Coordinator Dr. Jeff Stern. “You may only have seconds to get to safety if a tornado warning is issued for your area, making it that much more important to practice ahead of time.”

Tornado Preparedness Day was created so businesses, schools, colleges, families and individuals may focus on tornado safety features, including where to go for shelter during a tornado warning.

“Our faculty and staff is on board, and we are glad to do it, because we know that it is pivotal in making sure that everyone on board is safe throughout our building," said Robert Sander, principal of Grassfield Elementary School in Chesapeake.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service sponsored a Statewide Tornado Drill.

The National Weather Service sent a test tornado warning at 9:45 a.m. TV and radio stations broadcast the message through the Emergency Alert System, which simulates what listeners would hear during an actual tornado warning.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar.

When the test tornado warning alert is sounded, drill participants should do what they would do during an actual tornado by moving as quickly as possible to a safe area:

  • Sturdy buildings: Move to a basement or interior room on the lowest level of the building such as a bathroom, closet or hallway. Stay away from windows. Crouch down or sit on the floor facing down, and cover your head with your hands.
  • Open buildings (shopping mall, gym or civic center): Move to a bathroom or interior hallway. If there is no time, get up against a part of the building that will support or deflect falling debris. Protect your head by covering it with your arms.
  • Cars and trucks: Get out of your vehicle and move inside a sturdy building. A culvert or ditch can provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby. Lie down flat and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Outdoors: Try to find shelter immediately in the nearest sturdy building. If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Mobile homes: Leave the mobile home immediately and seek shelter inside a nearby sturdy building, or lie down in a ditch away from your home, covering your head with your hands.

Virginia experiences an average of 15 to 20 tornadoes annually, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Historically, April through September are the months with the most tornadoes.

For more information about tornado preparedness and to register for the Statewide Tornado Drill, go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov.