Severe weather is not only disruptive, but it can also be dangerous. Having a plan of action before the weather gets active is crucial to protecting life and property. This is where you will find important tips on preparedness as well as graphics to keep you ahead of disruptive weather.

Thunderstorms have occurred in every season in the U.S., including the winter months. An average of 300 people are injured and 80 killed yearly from lightning strikes. Did you know, lightning does not determine whether a storm is severe? A severe thunderstorm is one that contains large hail, or damaging wind threats.


This means the potential exists for the development of severe thunderstorms. You should plan your day around the potential for strong storms and where you would go if severe weather strikes. Watches are typically issued for many counties at one time.


A warning is issued by the National Weather Service when a storm has reached the criteria of quarter size (or larger) hail, damaging winds over 58mph, or in very rare cases a tornado. Warnings are issued in using polygons based on storm paths and don’t always cover an entire county.


  • Get indoors and stay away from windows
  • Refrain from taking a shower, washing hands or doing dishes or laundry
  • Avoid contact with corded devices (EX: video games, hairdryers)
  • Avoid metal objects if you must remain in an outdoor shelter
  • If seeking shelter in a vehicle, avoid touching vehicle frame and park away from trees and power poles
  • Wait 30 minutes after the storm has passed to assess damage or resume activities

Tornadoes are one of the most violent acts of nature. An effective severe weather plan can mean the difference between life or death. Every second counts.


This means the potential exists for the development of tornadoes. Typically, watches are typically issued for many counties at one time hours before severe weather is expected. This gives you time to get your action plan ready and designated shelter identified. Learn more about setting up a tornado action plan.


A Tornado Warning is issued when meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, VA determine a storm is capable of producing a tornado soon based on radar, or a funnel cloud or tornado has already been spotted by a trained observer. This is when you seek sturdy shelter immediately!


Since tornadoes are rare and can often strike with a short amount of lead time, knowing where to go and being alert to changing conditions throughout the day is critical. DO NOT RELY ON on Facebook or social media to deliver your severe alerts. DO RELY ON a weather radio, the WDBJ7 Weather App, or check the often for updates.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INDOORS: Get to the basement or lowest portion of your building away from any windows. Interior rooms (bathrooms, closets) are best if you don’t have a basement. If in an office building or school, go to an interior hallway away from exterior walls.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE OUTDOORS: Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Seek shelter in a nearby, sturdy structure. This often means you’ll have to plan ahead and identify your safe location if severe weather is in the forecast. In a last-minute scenario, with nowhere else to go, you may need to find a ditch or low area away from trees and other objects that could become projectiles. Cover your head and neck.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN A MOBILE HOME: Do not remain in mobile homes during tornadoes, leave immediately and seek shelter in the basement of a nearby building. Even mobile homes with tie-downs may overturn during a tornado.

Flooding is one of the most deadly types of severe weather across the state.
Flooding is one of the most deadly types of severe weather across the state.(WDBJ)

Heavy rain from storms, tropical systems, slow-moving fronts, and even snowmelt can lead to flooding. The greatest threats from flooding come from fast-rising and quickly-moving water. The deeper the water, the greater the threat.

  • NEVER ATTEMPT TO WALK OR DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED ROADS: You don’t know how deep the water truly is, or if the road is still completely there.
  • ELECTRICAL LINES COULD SHOCK YOU: Electricity from streetlights and power poles may still be active through standing water and could cause a deadly shock.
  • SNAKES, BUGS, AND CONTAMINATED WATER: Playing or walking through standing water can make you ill. Insects and snakes are also found in floodwater and could cause bites.
  • CAMPING OR RECREATING ALONG STREAMS/RIVERS: A creek only 6 inches deep in mountainous areas can swell to a 10-foot deep raging river in less than an hour if a thunderstorm lingers over an area for an extended period of time. Sometimes the thunderstorms that produce the heavy rainfall may happen well upstream from the impacted area, making it harder to recognize a dangerous situation. It’s a good idea to NEVER camp right next to a creek or stream.


A FLASH FLOOD occurs when a thunderstorm or continuous rain event causes rapid rises of water along creeks, streams and poor drainage areas. Flash flooding is often short-duration and the most dangerous type of flooding because reaction time is critical. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain, as water rushes downstream.

A FLASH FLOOD WATCH is issued for a larger area when flooding from storms is possible somewhere in that area.

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING is issued for a more specific area that has received or is expected to get heavy rain.


A flood is considered to be a longer-duration event that can last days or even weeks. Virginia and West Virginia has numerous rivers and larger streams that feed off of smaller tributaries. Rivers often continue to rise hours or even days after the rain stops. Knowing if you are in a flood plain is very important, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area’s past, such as while camping.

A FLOOD WATCH is issued when heavy rain is expected and flooding is possible. It does not mean that flooding will definitely occur, but is possible.

A FLOOD WARNING is issued when heavy rain is causing or is almost certain to cause flooding in a specific area or river basin. Take action immediately to get to higher ground and preserve property.


Heavy rainfall in steep, mountainous terrain can often lead to landslide activity. Local research has shown areas that receive more than 5″ of rain in a shorter duration of time are more likely to experience landslides or mudslides.

Landslides, or mudslides, can include fast-moving debris flows which include mud, rocks, trees, and water. People living in areas prone to mudslides should be aware of the danger and prepare to act. Many fatalities occur during the night when people are sleeping.

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