It's Official, It Was a Twister

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

It's been confirmed; a tornado did touch down in the Valley last Friday. Officials from the National Weather Service were in Augusta County today. WHSV was there with them and tells us how they came up with this decision.

Barbara Watson and Neal Dipasquale track storms for the National Weather Service. They estimate its strength by the damages it causes. Here in the Valley the trails starts in Verona.

"I use a compass to take a look at the damage and see the pattern that trees have fallen down in and what direction are they pointing," says Barbara Watson, the Warning Coordinator Meteorologist. "If it turns out that the pattern is what we call a convergent pattern, coming in toward the storm, then it was more likely a tornado."

The long search for the storm path has begun. After an hour of driving, just some minor damage. Then, jackpot. A tree twisted, heavy damage to a barn near by and more.

"And then we've got a barn door," says Watson, surveying the damage. "Again the storms going this way. The barn door that's thrown back. It gets caught in the storm and it comes back. So I feel pretty good about this site."

Just up the road, more destruction. Finally we came to a church in Hermitage.

"They had a stack of siding on the back side and you can see pieces strewn out here," says Watson pointing to the debris. "Well the pieces form a complete circular pattern, pieces across here and then all the way around the church."

That was enough for Watson. Her verdict, an F-0 tornado, characterized by winds up to 70 miles an hour.

"Peeled some barn roofs, took a barn door off, blowing siding around, but fortunately nothing much more significant than that," states Watson. "But it was definitely a tornado."

Watson says she was annoyed by the paper's reports that there was no tornado. She says tornado warnings are there for a reason.

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Safety Tips

  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.

  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.

  • Stay away from windows.

  • Get out of automobiles.

  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately.

  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

  • Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes the most deaths and injuries.

Tornado Myths and Facts

  • Myth: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

  • Fact: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.

  • Myth: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.

  • Fact: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.

  • Myth: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

  • Fact: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.

  • Myth: Highway overpasses are a safe place to shelter if you are on the road when you see a tornado coming.
  • Fact: The truth is, any time you deliberately put yourself above ground level during a tornado, you are putting yourself in harms way. The best place is to lie flat in a ditch.

  • Myth: Tornadoes never strike big cities.

  • Fact: The downtown areas of "big cities" have had tornadoes on occasion. This past spring, a tornado passed through Miami before it moved out to sea, disproving the idea that they can't form in cities. Also, Salt Lake City had a tornado run through the downtown causing thousands of dollars in damage.

  • Myth: The southwest corner of a basement is the safest location during passage of a tornado.

  • Fact: The truth is that the part of the home towards the approaching tornado (often, but not always, the southwest) is the least safe part of the basement, not the safest. Homes that are attacked from the southwest tend to shift to the northeast. The unsupported part of the house may then collapse into the basement or pull over part of the foundation, or both.

Source: www.nws.noaa.gov contributed to this report


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