Know What to Do During the Next Tornado Warning

Tornado NWS

In April, heavy storms swept through Fairfax County. Earlier in the day, a tornado watch was issued by the National Weather Service to warn residents about the severity of the storm, and later in the evening a tornado warning was issued, indicating that there could be imminent danger to life and property.

And sure enough, a tornado with 70 mph winds did touch down in Reston at 8:55 p.m. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but it caused severe damage to at least one house and car in the area.


What Actions Did You Take During the Tornado Warning?

While we don’t live in a Midwest tornado alley, last week’s weather proves tornadoes certainly can happen here.

Two important questions for you:

  • Were you aware of the tornado warning?
  • Did you seek shelter immediately?

If you weren’t aware of the tornado warning, then please sign up for a source that will alert you, especially because you need details of where the tornado might be located. Tornado warnings will usually be issued for “Fairfax County,” but we’re a land mass of 395 square miles, so you need to know precisely where a warning has been issued.

“Getting weather warnings quickly and reliably is imperative,” says Chris Strong with the National Weather Service in Sterling. “Warnings only come with minutes of lead time (not hours).” He recommends taking a moment to get a phone app that relays NWS warnings, getting a NOAA weather radio and signing up for county alerts. “This may save your life one day.”


Tornado Warning Actions to Take

If you didn’t seek shelter during the recent tornado warning, please do so next time if you are in the projected path. A tornado warning is serious and there are protective actions you can take:


Specifically, here are a series of actions to take if a tornado warning is issued.

In a building:

  • Go immediately to the lowest level of your building to an interior room or hallway, ideally to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement or storm cellar.
    • If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
    • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • Stay away from windows and doorways.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Outside with no shelter:

  • If you are driving and can’t get to a safe shelter, stay in the vehicle with your seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

take cover during tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings


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