Severe Weather / Tornadoes

Severe storms can impact the Central Virginia area, not only during the spring and summer seasons, but at any time throughout the course of the year. With that in mind, citizens are encouraged to take the following safety precautions:

Prior to On-Set of Severe Weather

  • Obtain the recommended three-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day) and non-perishable foods.
  • Have on-hand: battery-operated radios, flashlights, extra batteries, basic tools/manual can openers, matches, first- aid supplies, prescription medicines, sanitation supplies, pet food and adequate fuel for vehicles, generators and other equipment. NOTE: If ever necessary to use a generator, check that sufficient ventilation is present.
  • Check with your local utility providers for special instructions on securing natural gas connections/valves and other utility components.
  • Prepare essential items in advance (should the need arise to relocate) including: special dietary supplies, personal hygiene items, essential medication/medical equipment, baby-care supplies, several changes of clothing, cash, and copies of important documents.
Severe Weather Composite
  • Fully charge cell phones, computers and mobile devices.
  • Remember to check on any neighbors who may need assistance; ensure pets’ needs are met.
  • Create a family emergency plan (PDF and an emergency communication plan (PDF); note phone numbers of family members, neighbors, physicians, and other primary contacts. Coordinate your severe weather plans with neighbors or with others on your street to determine the safest places to shelter in your area.    
  • Monitor weather conditions and stay tuned to local media for updates; keep apprised of possible evacuation notices and the opening/location of any emergency shelters.
  • If you have special needs, contact the Campbell County Public Safety Department at (434) 332-9540 for assistance in coordinating specific emergency resources; visit for a listing of specialized preparedness instructions.

During Severe Weather Conditions

  • Seek a grounded, closed shelter immediately; tightly shut doors and windows – stay inside!
  • Place yourself away from windows and glass panels; pull blinds to minimize injury in case of breakage.
  • Unplug unnecessary appliances and telephones; avoid turning on water faucets.
  • Turn off air conditioning units, dehumidifiers, and other equipment that can create electrical surges and spark fires.
  • Bring pets indoors; remove any loose or hanging objects from porches, patios or decks.
  • Set your battery operated radio to a local station to monitor storm advisories and/or warnings.
  • If at any time you detect the smell of natural gas, evacuate immediately to another safe shelter. DO NOT ignite matches/lighters or use any devices/objects that may produce sparks. From a safe distance, call your local gas company as well as 9-1-1.

Traveling During Severe Weather

  • Ensure vehicles’ gas tanks are filled with fuel.
  • Obtain a recent map of the area; pre-determine routes away from low-lying areas.
  • DO NOT cross roadways submerged in water or roadways obstructed with debris or downed power lines.
  • Pull over in a safe location if your vision is hindered by excessive precipitation; select a spot out of the line of traffic and away from trees, power lines and other structures; turn on caution lights to indicate your location to other drivers.
  • Tune into local radio stations for weather updates.
  • Check-in with a family member or emergency contact to indicate your location.

Following a Severe Weather Occurrence

  • Use caution when removing fallen trees or grinding tree stumps; be aware of buried underground utilities. Virginia law requires citizens to call Miss Utility at 8-1-1 before beginning any excavation or if the need to locate utility services is essential to emergency response.
  • Carefully scan your home/property for damage; relocate to a safe destination until any damaged areas are repaired or professionally inspected and deemed safe.
  • Report any downed power lines to local service providers; DO NOT go near damaged lines or poles.
  • Stay clear of damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by law enforcement/public safety officials or relief organizations.
  • If natural gas appliances have been damaged, check with your gas service provider for instructions on how to safely and properly turn-off valves.
  • Limbs, brush and other natural debris may be taken to the Campbell County Landfill site (427 Livestock Road, off of Route 29 across from Foster Fuels). Citizens are reminded to ensure chain saws and other equipment are used safely when clearing properties. Wear gloves and appropriate protective clothing and shoes when using chain saws, log splitters, etc.

Tornado Watches & Warnings: What’s the Difference?

In some cases, severe storm systems can spawn tornadic activity. Keep apprised of weather advisories by tuning in to local media sources:

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to occur, with some possessing the potential of spawning a tornado.

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning is an alert that indicates a tornado is either currently in progress or is imminent, based on radar. If a tornado warning is issued, citizens should take cover immediately.
Tornado Preparedness Measures

Should a tornado warning be issued, FEMA recommends that citizens take the following actions:
If Indoors:
  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area, such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If no basement is present on the premises, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway). 
    Select a spot away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls or seek shelter under a sturdy table. Assume a crouched/kneeling position and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • Do not open windows.
If Outdoors:
  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression; cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Do not seek shelter under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado; instead, leave the vehicle immediately to seek safer shelter.
  • Watch for flying debris; wind tossed objects cause the most tornado-related fatalities and injuries.
In Vehicles:
  • Evacuate the vehicle immediately and seek shelter at the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter.
  • Call those on your emergency contact list to indicate your location and condition; contact 9-1-1 immediately if you need emergency assistance.

Following a Tornado

  • Wait for an "all-clear" from safety officials before leaving the sheltering area;
  • Check to see if anyone in your group is injured or needs assistance. If so, contact local emergency services. Call to check in with those on your emergency contact list.
  • Be on the lookout for broken glass, sharp metal, live electrical lines, and/or other hazards in your area. Be aware of the potential for fires due to possible gas/fuel leaks or exposed electrical systems.
  • Quickly (but safely) exit affected buildings; do not return to damaged sites until it is deemed safe by officials.
  • Tune into local radio stations for regional weather, safety updates and shelter openings; do not assume the weather event is a single incident (often storm systems can create multiple outbreaks over a period of hours).
View Campbell County's tornado preparedness 2013 presentation (PDF).