Virginia Annual Statewide Tornado Drill: March 20

Virginia Annual Statewide Tornado Drill:
March 20

Virginians urged to utilize drill to prepare for tornado threats

RICHMOND — On Friday, March 31, 2017, two tornadoes touched down in the Hampton Roads region, including an EF-2 tornado with winds exceeding 120 mph. The tornado was on the ground for eight miles in the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake damaging more than 200 homes. Virginians felt the destructive force of tornadoes again on April 6 in Lancaster County, near Irvington, when an EF-1 tornado, producing winds in excess of 90 mph, touched down damaging 45 structures.

A storm system passing through the Commonwealth on May 5 produced nine tornadoes throughout the state. In April and August, communities in Northern Virginia were impacted by several EF-0 tornadoes. Then several EF-1 tornadoes impacted communities throughout Southwest Virginia in October. These are just some of the tornado highlights from 2017, but they are a stark reminder that Virginians, in all regions of the Commonwealth, must prepare for the possibility of tornadoes and other natural disasters.

Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill will take place Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 9:45 a.m. (If widespread severe weather threatens the Commonwealth on that date, the drill will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21, at 9:45 a.m.). The Statewide Tornado Drill is a yearly opportunity to prepare Virginians for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems.

The drill will start at approximately 9:45 a.m. with a test tornado warning sent by the National Weather Service to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios. NOAA weather radios will sound a tone alert and show a test message (or flash to indicate a message) to simulate what people would hear or see during an actual tornado warning. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will broadcast the test message via the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Participants, including individual schools and businesses, should register for the drill with VDEM. Registration information and resources are available at:

“An actual tornado warning isn’t the time to figure out how to keep your loved ones, coworkers, friends and neighbors safe. Virginians should use the statewide tornado drill on March 20 as an opportunity to test their tornado emergency procedures and discuss preparedness efforts for these deadly and unexpected storms which can touch down in Virginia throughout the year,” said Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) State Coordinator Dr. Jeff Stern.

“Tornadoes can occur any month of the year. Last year 25 confirmed tornadoes touched down throughout the Commonwealth,” said Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “When a tornado watch is issued for your area, have a plan and know where to seek safe shelter should a tornado warning be issued.”

Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Contact: Jeff Caldwell
(804) 897-9730

National Weather Service
Contact: Bill Sammler
(757) 899-5732