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Last year, 51 tornadoes hit Virginia, the second highest number on record. To encourage tornado awareness and safety, Gov. Bob McDonnell has proclaimed March 20 as Tornado Preparedness Day in the commonwealth.
Grayson County plans to participate in the drill and is encouraging citizens to be prepared, stated Assistant County Administrator Mitch Smith.
“Tragically, many Virginia families and communities were affected by deadly tornadoes last year, and they continue to heal,” said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “We cannot forget that 10 of our citizens died and more than 100 were injured. So it is critically important that we all know what to do when a tornado warning is issued.”
On March 20, businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals are encouraged to practice taking cover from tornadoes by participating in the Statewide Tornado Drill, set for 9:45 a.m. At that time, the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. The message will be picked up by TV and radio broadcasters, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning.
When the test tornado warning is sounded, people should move as quickly as possible to a safe area in a sturdy building. Safe areas are basements and crawl spaces, as well as interior rooms, bathrooms, closets or hallways on the lowest level of a building. In choosing a safe area, stay away from windows. Once in the safe area, crouch down or sit on the floor, facing down, and cover heads with hands.
“Tornadoes are common in Virginia, but last year they were stronger and more destructive,” said Cline. “Virginians suffered substantial losses from the EF3 tornadoes in Surry, James City, York, Gloucester, Mathews and Washington counties and the EF2 tornadoes in Pulaski County. We encourage everyone to practice tornado safety by participating in the Statewide Tornado Drill.”
For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for the statewide drill, go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov Although registration is not required, people participating in the statewide drill are encouraged to sign up to show their support. The annual drill is a joint effort of VDEM and the National Weather Service.
“The best and fastest way to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “With a weather radio, you get weather data directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. When a tornado warning is issued, the weather radio sounds an alarm followed by information on where the storm is, which way it’s moving, and telling people in its path to take cover. This radio could be a lifesaver.”
NOAA Weather Radios with SAME alerts are available at electronics and sporting goods stores, discount and department stores, and online. They come in battery-powered models, and many also have AM/FM bands. A special needs NOAA Weather Radio is available as well. The special-needs NOAA Weather Radio can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information. The radio is a weather alerting system that can be a lifesaver, much as the now commonly used smoke detector with flashing light, for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.