RICHMOND, Va. — On February 24, 2016, Virginia was hit by the deadliest tornado event since 1959, resulting in five fatalities and more than 45 injuries. An EF-1 tornado touched down on the Town of Waverly in Sussex County, an EF-3 tornado affected Appomattox County, and another EF-3 tornado hit the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck region. The National Weather Service (NWS) verified that eight tornadoes struck Virginia during that storm.

These storms are a stark reminder that Virginians must prepare for the possibility of tornadoes and other natural disasters. Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill will take place Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at 9:45 a.m. (If widespread severe weather threatens the commonwealth on that date, then the drill will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 22, at 9:45 a.m.)

The Statewide Tornado Drill is a yearly opportunity to prepare Virginians for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems.

“Thirteen months ago, many Virginians heard the warning broadcasts of a tornado warning in their area and were forced to get themselves, their families and co-workers to safety,” said State Coordinator of Emergency Management Dr. Jeff Stern. “But an actual tornado warning isn’t the time to figure out how to keep your loved ones and friends safe. Virginians should use the statewide tornado drill on March 21 as an opportunity to test their tornado emergency procedures and discuss preparedness efforts for these deadly and unexpected storms which can touch down in Virginia almost any time.”

The drill will start at approximately 9:45 a.m. with a test tornado warning sent by the National Weather Service to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios. NOAA weather radios will sound a tone alert and show a test message (or flash to indicate a message) to simulate what people would hear or see during an actual tornado warning. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will broadcast the test message via the Emergency Alert System.

“Tornadoes can occur any month of the year, and Virginia averages 16 tornadoes each year,” said Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “When a tornado watch is issued for your area, know where to seek safe shelter should a tornado warning be issued.”