Severe Weather Handbook Topic 2: Tornado Drill and Tornado Preparedness

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – In conjunction with Severe Weather Awareness week West Virginia, the second topic is tornadoes.

Tornadoes are rare locally but they do happen in West Virginia and there is no such thing as having the “hills protect us” when it comes to these kinds of storms. We all witnessed that as a tornado touched down in Charleston back on June 26, 2019.

Tornado radar signature from confirmed tornado June 26, 2019 in Charleston – WOWK image

Therefore, the StormTracker meteorologists and public safety officials want people to practice tornado drills to know where to go and what to do in case there is an actual tornado.  It has been proven that knowing what to do and actually taking those steps makes even high-end wind speed tornadoes survivable.

On Tuesday, March 17 at 11:00 am EDT, the National Weather Service offices that serve the state of West Virginia will issue a TEST Tornado Warning in order to kick off the 2020 Statewide Tornado Drill.  While this test Tornado Warning will activate most NOAA Weather Radio Transmitters, the coding included in the warning to signify that it is a TEST product will keep it from activating other alerting methods such as Wireless Emergency Alerts on cell phones. 

This is a good time for families and businesses to take a moment and locate where you would go if a tornado warning was issued for your area. 

Safe spots include:

  • A basement is best, but if no basement, find the lowest floor.
  • Move away from any windows, doors or places where glass might break and fly free.
  • Crouch and cover your head and neck as best you can.
  • Any kind of helmet improves your chances of reducing head injury.
  • Make sure you have shoes on if you have to evacuate quickly across debris afterward.
  • Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
  • At Your House: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows.
  • At Your Workplace or School: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
  • Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or tent.  If you have time, get to a safe building.
  • In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
Proper covering method if a tornado strikes – NWS image

And remember the difference between a Watch and a Warning:

Differences between watches and warnings for tornadoes – NWS image

What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

Having a tornado plan and working a tornado plan in conjunction with being situationally aware and having multiple ways to receive warnings will greatly reduce time needed to move to safety and produce a safer outcome.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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