Thursday, July 18, 2024

Hampton Roads is under a tornado watch; Northam declares state of emergency

(WYDaily/Courtesy of NOAA)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of NOAA)

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of Hampton Roads until 9 p.m. Thursday.

James City County officials are closely monitoring the track of Tropical Storm Michael.

Michael is is expected to hit the Hampton Roads area Thursday afternoon, so residents can expect “scattered” showers and “steady” rain on Thursday and high “wind gusts” on Friday, said Jeff Orrock, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in anticipation of impacts from the storm.

The order is designed to mobilize resources, help Virginia mitigate any damage, and to streamline the process the state uses to provide assistance to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

State agencies are working closely with localities to identify any needs and to provide resources.

The National Weather Service tweeted: “We wanted to reemphasize the elevated risk of tornadoes this afternoon. Highest risk for tornadoes will be across NE NC, SE VA, and South Central VA.”

Orrock said the enhanced risk of tornadoes in Hampton Roads was caused by the amount of wind shear and hot air in the atmosphere as the storm system approaches the region. The threat is most likely between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday.

“If we see anything, it will probably be an F0 or F1,” Orrock said. “If we do get into a tornado situation, it could be fast and furious, meaning the tornadoes could develop and move quickly — likely 45 mph — and so it’s important to remain alert, be in tune with the forecasts, and keep an eye on the radar.”

After school activities on Thursday have been canceled for students at all Williamsburg-James City County schools.

James City County is under:

  • Tornado watch until 9 p.m. Thursday (Hampton Roads)
  • A Flash Flood Watch from 2 p.m. (Oct. 11) through 8 a.m. Friday (Oct.12).
  • A Wind Advisory from 6 p.m. Thursday until noon Frday.


  • We can expect 4-6 inches of rain with the heaviest rain starting at 5 p.m. Thursday until 4 a.m. Friday.


  • The wind will start to pick up at 8 p.m. Thursday with the strongest winds expected at 2 a.m. Friday with gusts of 50 mph and sustained winds of 35 mph.
  • The wind will then gradually decrease until noon Friday.


  • There is an elevated potential for tornadoes.
  • Know the difference between a tornado watch and warning:
  • 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.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action. A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. 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.

What does this mean for you?

What you can do now?

  • Register for
  • Take measures to protect your property now. Make sure drainage ways near homes and businesses are clear of leaves and debris so that nothing impedes the flow of runoff.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds such as patio furniture and garbage cans. Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside such as propane tanks and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
  • All commercial building owners are encouraged to inspect (flat and low slope) roof drains and to make sure they are clear. Obstructed roof drains, both primary and overflow, could lead to significant structural damage.
  • Continue to monitor local media for updates.
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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