Town Crier Articles

Preparing For & Surviving a Tornado
Posted on April 1, 2024 6:42 AM by NTRA Emergency Preparedness Committee
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.  By definition a tornado is a violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. 
Here in Williamsburg, we occasionally hear about “tornado watches,” but less often about “tornado warnings.” You may ask, “What’s the difference?” The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a Tornado Watch when weather conditions in an area indicate an increased risk for severe weather that may be capable of producing a tornado. However, when the NWS issues a Tornado Warning, it does so when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. In this case, one should take shelter IMMEDIATELY.  Warning times vary in the range of 10 to 15 minutes.
The 6 warning signs that a tornado is approaching may include:                            
  • The color of the sky may change to a dark greenish color.
  • A strange quiet occurring within or shortly after a thunderstorm.
  • A loud roar that sounds similar to a freight train.                                                                    
  • An approaching cloud of debris, especially at ground level.
  • Debris falling from the sky.
  • A rotating funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm.
Note that if you find yourself outside when a tornado is approaching and there is no time to take shelter in a sturdy building, lie flat (in a ditch, trench, or other area of recessed ground, if possible) covering your head with your hands or other available material for protection.  
What are 4 survival tips for tornadoes?
  • If possible, avoid sheltering in any room with windows.  Go to an interior windowless room (even a closet or a bathroom) within your home or building.  Put as many walls between you and the exterior of your home or building as possible. Bathtubs are anchored directly into the ground; getting into a bathtub with a couch cushion over you gives you protection on all sides, as well as an extra anchor to the foundation.
  • For added protection get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench).
  • Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress.
  • Protect your head with anything available.
Here are 5 free/low-cost tornado preparation tips:
  • Identify/Prepare a tornado safe room in your home.
  • Know how to identify potential places to shelter when outside your home or office. 
  • Remove potential projectiles before tornado season.
  • Memorize the warning signs of a tornado and track the weather.
  • Stockpile tap water and canned goods for after the tornado.
Fun Fact:  Tornadoes have been documented in every U.S. state (not including the non-state territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico) at least once since 1950, although some regions and states are hit by tornadoes far more than others.
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