Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Nationwide tornado drill is Tuesday
Monday, March 11, 2013
Martinsville and Henry County will participate in a statewide tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
At that time, the National Weather Service will issue a test tornado warning message that will be broadcast over area radio and television stations via the Emergency Alert System.
The message also will be broadcast over a special radio system operated by the weather service. It will activate alarms on “weather radios” in alert mode — the radios are turned on, but the sound is muted.
Martinsville also will sound emergency warning sirens at the city’s two fire stations. Henry County does not use sirens for tornado warnings.
State and local officials are asking businesses and schools as well as people at home to take part in the drill by taking steps they would take if an actual tornado warning is issued.
According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), 62 tornadoes hit the state during the past two years, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100.
Officials do not recall any deaths due to tornadoes locally, but such storms have occurred in the area.
In September 2004, a tornado that struck the western parts of the county caused almost $53.8 million in damage. Another twister that touched down near the Martinsville Speedway in the 1990s also caused heavy damage.
In October 2010, meteorologists confirmed that a funnel cloud touched down near Aiken Summit and damaged trees, homes and other structures, according to reports.
“With climate changes and our recent history, our potential for tornadoes has greatly increased” in recent years, said Rodney Howell, Henry County’s public safety director.
Know the difference between a “tornado watch” and a “tornado warning.”
The weather service issues a “tornado watch” when weather conditions in a specific area are favorable for tornadoes to occur. When a watch is issued, people should listen to radio or television in case a warning is broadcast.
A tornado warning is issued when radar shows significant rotation in storm clouds or a funnel cloud has been sighted, even if the funnel is not reaching the ground. People should immediately seek shelter if a warning is issued.
“Knowing what to do when a tornado warning is issued can save your life,” said VDEM State Coordinator Michael Cline.
Emergency officials recommend that all homes, schools and businesses have designated tornado safety areas, such as a basement, interior room, closet or hall. A safety area should be away from windows so people do not come into contact with broken glass or other debris being blown around in a tornado.
After going to the safety area, officials recommend that people seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table or desk, for protection from flying debris or collapsed roofs.
People should crouch, like in a fetal position, to make their bodies less of a target for flying debris.
Because tornadoes can easily destroy them, mobile homes and vehicles are not suitable shelters. Structures with large-span roofs, including large retail stores or gymnasiums, also are not suitable shelters, according to officials.
If no suitable shelter is available in a tornado, people should lie face down outside in a ditch with their hands over their heads, officials advise.
Some television programs have shown people taking shelter from tornadoes under bridges. Emergency officials advise people not to do that because high winds can suck a person out from under a bridge, even in narrow spaces.