Annual statewide tornado drill set for March 19

Staff writer

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management will hold its annual tornado drill March 19.

The drill at 9:45 a.m. will alert schools and businesses with a test tornado warning through the National Weather Service. Local radio and cable outlets will broadcast the test message through the Emergency Alert System.

York and Williamsburg-James City County public schools will participate as part of the state requirement for an annual drill.

“The more students and staff become familiar with the process the easier it is to put that in place if there is an actual emergency,” said Eileen Cox, W-JCC communications director. “That's why we drill and practice.”

The department said the drill is an opportunity to start a conversation about emergency procedures and preparedness plans.

“It’s really for everybody. It’s a conversation starter,” said Adam Zubowsky, VDEM spokesperson. “Know your environment, know what your emergency procedures are. Start talking with folks in charge of those facilities to know what the emergency preparedness plan is to seek safe shelter.”

VDEM works with NWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the Virginia Department of Education to host the drill.

In 2018, there were 31 confirmed tornadoes in Virginia and one related death, according to VDEM. On average, the state had 24 tornadoes a year in the last decade.

“Tornadoes in Virginia are a year-round threat,” Zubowsky said. “Our goal is to start getting folks to think about them as a year-round threat.”

Martin can be reached at (757)-243-3685, by email at or on Twitter at @SaraRoseMartin.

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