Tornado drills planned for Virginia on Tuesday morning

Historic Triangle fire and safety departments will practice tornado preparedness on Tuesday, according to a York County news release.

Tornadoes can strike at any time, forming with little warning and creating winds faster than 200 mph. Virginia experiences between 15 and 20 tornadoes a year, according to a release from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Deadly tornadoes killed four people and damaged 400 structures in Waverly and Appomatox, Va. in February, the department release states.

“We were reminded last month just how vulnerable Virginia is to tornadoes, and we saw their devastating effects,”  State Coordinator Jeff Stern wrote in the department release. “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."

Williamsburg and York County fire departments will participate in tornado drills at area schools on March 22, along with other agencies in the commonwealth and the National Weather Service.

James City County conducted drills on March 15 because students will be in Standards of Learning testing on Tuesday, said Maj. Eric Stone of the Williamsburg Fire Department. The city’s fire department assisted the county in the tornado drills last week.

The drills will begin at 9:45 a.m. with a test tornado warning sent by the National Weather Service. It will sound like a tone alert across local radio, TV and cable stations, according to the county news release.

Students will practice the “duck and cover” method during the drill.

People working and at home are encouraged to practice by finding a safe spot in their business or home with no windows – an ideal location for an actual tornado. During the drill they should crouch on the floor and cover their heads with their hands, according to the department release.

People in open buildings, like malls and civic centers, should find a room with no windows and cover their heads as well. If there is no time to get to a windowless area, people should try to find a part of the building that will be sturdy during a tornado, the department release states.

Those driving, outdoors or in mobile homes should find a building or ditch that can provide shelter. If outdoors, they should stay flat and cover their heads. Bridges and overpasses are dangerous during tornadoes, according to the department release.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management recommends preparing early for tornadoes and other natural disasters by creating an emergency plan and putting together a kit that includes food, water, cash, flashlights and batteries.

Tuesday’s drills are part of Virginia’s Tornado Preparedness Day, a state-wide effort to make people more aware of the threat of tornadoes and to prepare them in the event that one strikes their area.

To learn more, visit readyyorkcountyvirginia.com, weather.gov/safety.php or readyvirginia.gov.

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