Monday, May 12, 2014

Tornado’s Not Just a Hazard for the Midwest

The news tells the tragic tales of powerful storms that ravage entire communities leaving the residents mourning the loss of loved ones among piles of debris which was once described home.   It is easy to separate what is on the news, particularly when imagining these tornado stricken communities as being far-removed with the ‘it will never happen here’ mentality.  While tornado’s happen with more frequency in the Midwest than in Central Virginia, history indicates that between the years 1950 and 2007 a total of 8 tornados have occurred within the City of Richmond, an average of one tornado every seven years.  One of the most notable and strongest tornados to impact the area occurred in June of 1951.  This powerful F3[1]  touched down near Byrd Park and traversed the Fan crossing Broad Street at Belvidere.  The tornado traveled into the City’s Northside near Brookland Park Boulevard, a total of four miles.  Luckily no deaths occurred as a result of this storm but 100 people were left homeless and 1,000 buildings were damaged, totaling 1 million dollars. 
In October of 2010, the City’s Northside experienced another less powerful tornado which was classified as an EF 01.  The tornado touched down near North Boulevard and traveled northwest 11 miles into Hanover County.  More than 100 structures were damaged and several homes were destroyed.   No deaths were associated with this tornado. 
Both of these storms are an example of the risk Richmond residents face when it comes to these powerful storms.  Consider if the 1951 tornado happened today, the impact would be much larger due to the development of the area, population increase, and the dense commuter pedestrian and vehicular traffic. 
If you find yourself in a situation where a tornado is threatening it is important to know how to react.  If outside when the tornado occurs, try and seek shelter in a nearby sturdy building.  If you are unable to get to a sturdy building or safely drive to one, stay in your vehicle with the windows and doors shut with your seat belt on and cover your head with your arms.   If it is possible to get lower than the roadway leave your car and lie in that area.  It is not safe to get under an overpass or bridge.  If in a structure during a tornado go to a small interior room on the lowest floor if possible.  Stay away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls and put as many walls possible between you and the outside.  If in a manufactured building get out immediately and seek shelter in sturdy building.    

[1] The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) replaced original Fujita Scale(F Scale) in 2007 assigns a rating based on estimated wind speed and related damage.  

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