Tornado Preparedness

Tornadoes are one of the most dangerous and unpredictable weather events and can materialize in a matter of minutes. Within the New River Valley and Radford community it can be even more dangerous because of the mountain and uneven terrain and restrictions to line of site recognition. Familiarize yourself with the information below and be aware of your environment on campus.

Signs of an Approaching Storm
Some tornadoes strike rapidly, without time for a tornado warning, and sometimes without a thunderstorm in the vicinity. When you are watching for rapidly emerging tornadoes, it is important to know that you cannot depend on seeing a funnel: clouds, rain. or the regional mountain range may block your view especially in the City of Radford/New River Valley region. The following general weather signs may mean that a tornado is approaching:

  • A dark or greenish-colored sky
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud
  • Large hail
  • A loud roar that sounds like a freight train.

If you notice any of these weather conditions, take cover immediately, and keep tuned to local radio and TV stations or to a NOAA weather radio.

NOTE: If a tornado warning is issued for the City of Radford/Radford University area a Radford Alert may be issued as well as outdoor siren activation.

Know the Terminology
The following information is from the National Weather Service about what you should do in the case of a tornado. Read this information before any severe weather or tornado activity. This provides common information and preparation information that will help you respond if you experience weather event. Make sure you understand the definitions for Tornado Watch and Tornado warnings listed above.

For more information visit the National Weather Service website.

What is a tornado watch? 
Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

What is a tornado warning?
Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property.   When a tornado warning is issued for the Radford City/Radford University area, take immediate safety precautions.  Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

It is important to remember that with any severe weather event, tornado, or hurricane normal campus communications can be disrupted. Business and personal cellular phone service can be greatly impacted by the weather as well as damage to regional cell towers and equipment. Even in ideal conditions telephone use will dramatically increase for both home and cellular service carriers that may cause severe communication system loads for all carriers and limit cell phone use.

Know your environment
Make sure you understand and know where severe weather safe places are in your residence halls, dining halls, offices, classrooms, and all buildings on campus you frequent.

During a Tornado
If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately!
  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head. If available, put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect yourself from head injuries.

If you are in a University structure
Go to a pre-designated shelter area , if identified, or move to the lowest building level. 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.

If you are in any portable classroom or temporary trailer or mobile home 
Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you outside with no access to campus or other shelter
Get into a vehicle, and buckle your seat belt.  Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.  If there is no car or shelter, try to find a ditch or area lower than the ground to lie down in. You are safer in a low, flat location than under a bridge or highway overpass.

Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
 For additional information on tornado preparedness visit the following sites: