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What to do during severe weather events

Published On: May 19 2015 12:00:00 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 14 2016 09:16:54 AM EDT
Where to go during severe weather

Along with watching WDBJ7, you should should know where to go during severe storms and tornadoes. Below are important terms to listen/watch for, along with advice on where to go during severe storms.

means conditions are right for strong to severe storm development. This doesn't mean severe weather will occur, only that it's possible. You should continue to monitor the weather closely for changes.

means a storm has developed which contains one or more of the following: 1" Hail, 58mph+ wind gusts or, in rare cases, a tornado. A track is issued with each warning. See if your area is in the storm's path and seek shelter indoors away from windows until the storm passes.

means conditions are right for a tornado to form. This doesn't mean one is on the ground. You should plan where to go if a WARNING is issued. Monitor the weather for updates.

means a tornado has actually been sighted by a storm spotter or by doppler radar, and may be headed your way. When a warning is issued, take cover quickly.


  • Strong, persistent rotation in the base of a cloud.
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base – tornadoes sometimes have no visible funnel
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes, especially in Virginia, are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
  • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  • At night, look for small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These lights are power lines being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
  • Persistent lowering of the cloud base.


AT HOME, go to a basement or storm cellar, away from windows. If neither a basement or storm cellar is available, find shelter under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a work bench or heavy table and hold on to it. Use arms to protect head and neck.

WORK OR SCHOOL, go to the basement or inside hallway at the lowest level. Avoid rooms such as auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias or large hallways.

IF OUTDOORS, get inside a building, if possible. If unable to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area Use arms to protect head and neck and stay low to the ground. Remember: If you are in a ditch or low-lying area, be alert for flash floods that often accompany tornadoes.

IN A VEHICLE, never try to outrun a tornado. Get out of the vehicle immediately and take shelter in a nearby building. If there is no time to go indoors, get out of the vehicle and lie in a ditch or low-lying area between the vehicle and the tornado. Do not take shelter in a ditch downwind of the vehicle. Use arms to protect head and neck.

IN A MOBILE HOME, remember mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily and be blown apart, even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. The key is to prepare BEFORE the warning is issued. Have a place to go before the weather turns severe. When a tornado warning is issued, get out of the mobile home quickly, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. In the worse case scenario where shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area between the tornado and mobile home.

Do not take shelter in a ditch downwind of the mobile home. If a tornado hits it, debris could fall on top of you. Use arms to protect head and neck.