National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Severe Weather Awareness Week For Virginia

 March 4th - 8th, 2024 


Please join us in promoting severe weather safety during this year's "Severe Weather Awareness Week". The National Weather Service asks emergency management, public safety officials, local media and Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors to help join forces in improving the nation's readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against severe weather during the upcoming season. 

NWS Wakefield Skywarn Spotter Training

A Virtual Skywarn training classes will offered at 1 PM on March 4th during the Monday ofSevere Weather Awareness week.  Additional in person classes have been scheduled for the spring, too! See the list of sites for the closest one to your location. Click here to register!   


Severe Weather Awareness Week Activities.

March 7, 2024 -- StatewideTornado Drill and "Show Your Shelter" social media event to show your participation in the Tornado Drill.  See the EVENTS tab below for how to particpate. Please register yourself or your organization with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management so we can track how many people are particpating in the Tornado Drill. 




Each day this week, a different topic will be covered. Click on the tabs below for more severe weather preparedness information.




WATCH vs. Warning







Tornado Safety





With spring just around the corner, outdoor activities, like sporting events, camping, hiking and boating, will be once again becoming more prevalent.  It is is important that not only are people prepared at home for severe weather, but also for when they are outside enjoying all fun activities available in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Here are some tips to help with outdoor weather safety and preparedness:

  1. Know Before You Go! Before heading outdoors, check the latest forecast from, or from a trusted weather source. If severe weather is expected, stay home, or go before the weather is expected to deteriorate.
  2. Monitor the Weather. Have a NOAA Weather Radio, and/or apps that have radar and lightning data. Make sure you have a way to receive weather warnings. 
  3. Stop all Activities when you hear thunder or when weather conditions look threatening. The first lightning strike can come out of a clear blue sky many miles ahead of an approaching thunderstorm cloud.
  4. Know your area.  In hilly terrain, flash floods can strike with little or no advance warning -- Distant rain may be channeled into gullies and ravines, turning a quiet stream into a rampaging torrent in minutes -- Never camp on low ground next to streams since a flash flood can catch you while you're asleep
  5. Turn Around Don't Drown.  If you come upon flood waters, stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground
  6. When Thunder Roars Go Indoors. There is no 100% safe shelter outside. The only place of safety from lightning is inside a vehicle or a substantial, enclosed structure.. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from tall objects such as towers, fences, telephone poles, and power lines.

For additional safety tips please visit our Outdoor Weather Safety and Preparedness Page.




Outdoor Safety Infographics





Statewide Tornado Drill Information

Virginia’s annual statewide tornado drill for 2024 will take place on Thursday, March 7, at 9:45 AM EST. 


Every school, business, work place, and family across the state is strongly encouraged to participate in the statewide tornado drill.


To help us track how many people are participating in tornado drill activities, we ask that you register yourself or your organization with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. 



Here are some key points to remember about the drill:
  • The drill will be broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio and the Emergency Alert System via the Required Monthly Test (RMT).  There WILL NOT be an actual Tornado Warning issued.
  • Most NOAA Weather Radio receivers (including the Midland WR-100 that many schools have) DO NOT sound an audible alert for the RMT product, but instead, may have a blinking light on the display to indicate that an RMT was received.  As such, when the RMT for the statewide tornado drill is initiated at 9:45 AM on Thursday, March 7, 2024, there's a good chance that your NOAA Weather Radio will not automatically sound an alarm. 
  • Since your NOAA Weather Radio may not sound an alarm at the time the RMT is issued, you will want to do one of the following: turn your radio on to listen to the broadcast by 9:40 am and when you hear the alert, simply start your tornado drill at 9:45 AM. If you do not have a NOAA Weather Radio simply start your drill and enact your safety plan at 9:45 AM.
  • There will be no followup statements issued by the NWS to mark the end of the statewide tornado drill.   It will simply be over when your group, school, business, organization, or family feel that you have adequately practiced your tornado shelter procedures.
  • If there is actual severe weather occurring on the morning of March 7, 2024, the statewide tornado drill will be postponed.  The alternate date for the drill is Friday, March 8, 2024 at 9:45 AM EST.


Frequently Asked Questions

1.       What is the difference between weather Watches and Warnings?

A WATCH (Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado) is issued when severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. It does not mean that they will occur. It only means they are possible.

Severe thunderstorms are defined as follows:

        1) Winds of 58 mph or higher


        2) Hail 1 inch in diameter or larger.

A WARNING is issued by your local NWS office when a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado is imminent or occurring. Seek safe shelter and observe safety protocols.


2. Can a Severe Thunderstorm Warning be issued without a Watch in effect? 

Yes it can. While the majority of the time a watch is in place prior to a warning being issued, there are times a warning is issued for a storm with no watch having been issued. This is usually in a situation where a lone storm or maybe a couple storms briefly get strong enough to produce damaging winds or hail in a localized area, but the overall conditions do not support widespread severe weather.


3. What is meant by the Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, Moderate, and High risk categories in the Convective Outlook?

Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, Moderate, and High risks represent progressively larger threats for organized severe storm episodes. These risks, along with their numerical, abbreviated labels, and colors (1-MRGL-dark green, 2-SLGT-yellow, 3-ENH-orange, 4-MDT-red, 5-HIGH-magenta), are based directly on Severe Thunderstorm Risks issued by the Storm Prediction Center.



4. What does it mean to be “Weather Ready Nation (WRN)”?


NOAA’s Weather–Ready Nation (WRN) is about readying your community for extreme weather, water, and climate events. The devastating impacts of extreme events like record breaking snowfall, violent tornadoes, destructive hurricanes, widespread flooding, and devastating drought can be reduced by taking advanced action, which is why the Weather–Ready Nation initiative is so important. You can get more information at the national WRN site, linked here:


5. How Do I Prepare for a Tornado? What Steps Do I Take When a Warning is Issued?


  YouTube - Tornado Safety (ASL/CC)

     YouTube - Preparedness Videos

  YouTube - Get Weather Ready: Before A Tornado

  YouTube - Get Weather Ready: During A Tornado

  YouTube - Get Weather Ready: After A Tornado


Find more information at the following address:


6. How many tornadoes occur per year in our area?

Tornadoes per County in Virginia                     Tornado Activity by Month




 Tornado Activity by Time of Day                  Tornado Activity by Intensity   




Also, The Storm Prediction Center has prepared a series of charts based upon climatology, received severe weather reports from NWS Storm Data, and annual summaries. Their page is located here:


7. I have additional questions on tornadoes not answered here. Where can I look for more information?

Additional FAQ on tornadoes are answered at the Storm Prediction Center Tornado FAQ page:


8. What are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages, usually less than 90 characters, that are sent directly to your phone by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service. Get more information at


9. What is the SKYWARN Program?

The SKYWARN program is a group of volunteers that are trained by the National Weather Service to properly observe and report severe weather conditions to the National Weather Service. These observations serve as critical ground truth and are one of the key ingredients to our severe weather warning process. You can find and register for future training classes, see recorded training modules, and get more information at





Awareness Week Activities

Thursday March 7, 2024 - 9:45 AM - Statewide Tornado Drill - This is an opportunity to practice what you would do in the event an tornado is moving through your area.  Details on how to receive the warning are included under the Tornado Drill Info Tab.  In conjunction with the tornado drill, we are asking those participating in the tornado drill to take a photo of the location you are sheltering and share it with us on Social media, posting it with #ShowYourShelter.  Another way to let us know you are participating in the 2024 Tornado drill is to register with us through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.  Click on this registration link and fill out the form so we can see how many people particpated this year.


Skywarn Spotter Training - Would you like to learn what weather types classify as severe weather? This class will cover how thunderstorms form and look at the weather types they can produce from strong winds, hail and even tornadoes. It will also cover the numerous ways that spotters can report this significant weather. This class will be offered several times during Severe Weather Awareness Week.  Sign up and register for the class the best matches your schedule.  All classes are virtual.  


Basic Skywarn Training -- Monday, March 4, 2024 1 PM - 3 PM.  Register Here.



Find us on social media:

You can also contact:

Eric Seymour for additional information about Severe Weather Preparedness.