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Emergency Advice Follows in Path of Tornado

A National Weather Survey team has confirmed that the July 9 storm that moved across Loudoun County produced two tornadoes. Damages from the storm in a path between Round Hill and Lincoln were caused by a tornado, while the storm spawned an additional weak tornado near Ashburn Farms.

The Loudoun County Department of Fire-Rescue Services’ Office of Emergency Management encourages businesses and families to take time to learn what to do in the event of a tornado.

When preparing for tornadoes, the most important step is to find safe shelter. The general rule for tornado safety is to “go low and get low.” One should go to the lowest level of the structure they are in, away from windows, and crouch in a low position, protecting his or her head. If outside or in a car, one should try to get to a sturdy building for shelter. If that is impossible, one should lie flat in a low area with hands covering the back of the head and neck.

When severe thunderstorms threaten, people should watch the sky and pay close attention to weather advisories. Environmental clues that may indicate an approaching tornado include a dark, often greenish sky, large hail and a loud roar similar to a freight train. To alert the public of tornadoes, the National Weather Service issues tornado watches and warnings.

* A tornado "watch" means that weather conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. If a tornado "watch" is broadcast, one should stay tuned for further advisories and be prepared to take cover.

* If a tornado "warning" is issued, it means a tornado has actually been sighted. Warnings are issued for individual counties and include the tornado’s location and its direction and speed. If one is in or near its path, it is advisable to seek shelter immediately. One should not attempt to look for the tornado. Many tornadoes in Virginia are obscured by rain and are not visible at all or are not visible until it is too late.

The following safety tips are offered by the Virginia Department of Emergency Services, the National Weather Services and the Loudoun County Department of Fire-Rescue Services, Office of Emergency Management:

* The best shelter from a tornado is a basement. Those without basements should go to an inside room without windows on the lowest level of a house, like a closet, bathroom, or interior hall. A heavy blanket or sleeping bag can protect one’s body.

* Avoid windows. Opening windows to equalize pressure is ineffective in reducing damage during a tornado. One should not worry about windows, but about protecting themselves.

* Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes and residents should seek shelter elsewhere.

* If caught in an open building like a shopping mall, gymnasium or civic center, one should get to the restroom if possible. In larger buildings, restrooms are usually made of concrete block and will offer more protection.

* If there is no time to go anywhere else, one should stay where they are and try to get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. The head should be protected by covering with the arms.

* If outside when a tornado strikes, one should try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. If no buildings are close, one should take cover by lying down flat in a ditch or depression.

* If one is in a car, one should get out and try to find shelter. A bridge underpass, a culvert or ditch can all provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby.

* One should know the names of all counties, cities, and towns nearby, especially those to the west and south, so one can better track the tornado's direction.