February 22, 2024

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Your tornado questions answered: How to prepare for a tornado

3 min read

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of the DC region Friday.

WASHINGTON — The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of the D.C. region as strong to severe storms are expected to move in Friday, bringing rain, hail and strong winds. 

RELATED: Tornado Watch issued for DC Metro Friday

RELATED: Yellow Weather Alert: Severe storms possible Friday

How to Prepare For a Tornado

Have a way to get weather information. Click here to download the WUSA9 App. Be sure you enable location and notification services so we can let you know if there is significant weather in your area. Bring in any outdoor decorations you have up, bring in or tie down your patio furniture, and secure your trash cans to prepare for the winds. 

If a tornado warning has been issued for your area, you should take cover immediately. The general rule for tornado safety is go low and stay low, which means go to the lowest level of whatever building you are in, away from windows and crouch in a low position with your head covered. 

How Common Are Tornados in the DMV?

While tornados in the District itself and neighboring suburbs are rare, anecdotally it feels like we’ve been hearing more about tornado warnings as of late. In early July 2021, two tornadoes touched down in the D.C. metro region, according to the NWS. An EF0 tornado hit in D.C. while an EF1 touched down in Arlington. Max winds reached 80-90 mph, and thankfully no one was injured during either twister.

The July 1 tornado was only the sixth time in 17 years that a tornado warning including the District proper was issued, according to records kept by Iowa State University.  From 2005 – 2021, 436 tornado warnings were issued across the DMV, but only six included the District itself.

According to data from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center and the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, only three tornadoes above an F0 magnitude have touched down inside the boundaries of Washington, D.C., in the past 50 years – and two of them happened on the same day in 2001.

What Does NWS Look For To Determine a Tornado?

First, the funnel cloud must have contact with the ground for it to be officially declared a tornado. Trained professionals are also looking for debris to be flying around the bottom of the funnel cloud. 

Tornadic winds also leave a pattern of damage, because it’s a rotating column of air. As it moves through, it does not produce wind speeds or wind direction evenly as it rolls across a neighborhood. So instead of trees falling in the same direction, they fall in opposite directions. Thus, what’s referred to as “circular damage” is a telltale sign of a tornado. 

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2022-05-27 11:20:49

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