VIRGINIA BEACH — Tornadoes are not only dangerous and destructive, but they’re also extremely unpredictable.
Last year by this time there had already been a couple of twisters confirmed across Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, as well as a what would eventually be classified as a straight-line winds event in Sandbridge.
“Our coastal weather can at times lead to these events not being as strong,” said Erin Sutton, director of Emergency Management in Virginia Beach. “But because we’re on the coast our weather can turn quickly. It can be beautiful in the morning, then afternoon storms can pop-up and lead to water spouts and tornadoes.”
Last year on March 31 an EF-2 tornado packing 120 mph winds touched down near Elbow and Indian River roads in the area of Stumpy Lake. Some 200 homes were damaged.
When severe storms roll in, Sutton said it’s important that residents pay attention to the news, either on television, the radio, online, or even with one of many weather apps available for their cellphone.
Awareness is the key to staying safe, she added.
It’s also critical to know the difference between a tornado “watch” and a “warning.” A watch means a tornado is possible, while a warning means one has actually been spotted.
“Not many homes in this area have a basement, so it’s important to keep an eye on the weather and to identify an interior room of their home where they can shelter during severe weather,” she said.
There might be only seconds to reach safety, with no time to think, so it’s important to identify the safe location ahead of time.
Likewise, Sutton said it’s a good idea to ensure that emergency plans are communicated with the entire family, especially children.
She also suggested owning a weather radio.
Although there is no official “tornado season” in Virginia Beach, Sutton said spring and early summer are the most likely time for twisters.