How to prepare, stay safe in the severe weather heading our way

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A big storm is headed to Central Virginia Thursday morning, bringing the threat for damaging winds, hail and possible tornadoes.

8News spoke with officials with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Dominion Virginia Power about their plans for today and how residents should prepare and stay safe.

VDEM said all hands were on deck beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, just in case the storms arrived overnight. Dominion was also fully staffed with crews on standby in case of power outages.

“We’re going to be ready to respond to outages as soon as they occur,” Dominion spokesperson Daisy Pridgen said. “We’re expecting impact between 6 a.m. and noon (Thursday), mainly in the southern part of Metro Richmond and into our Tidewater service area.

“We’re also expecting some high winds that could topple trees, bring down trees and power lines.”

Daisy Pridgen

VDEM also took early precautions.

“We will bring staff in this evening to work overnight and monitor the storm, and then if this storm does develop into tornadoes or any other damaging events in Central Virginia, we’ll bring in additional staff to coordinate the emergency response with the localities that are impacted,” explained Jeff Caldwell, VDEM’s Director of Public Relations.

Jeff Caldwell

If a tornado does hit the area, Caldwell says to get away from windows and go into an interior room, like a bathroom or basement. If you experience a power outage, Pridgen says to report it right away.

“Be sure to report that either through your iPhone or smart device, on our website and also on our outage map,” Pridgen said.

Click here to view Dominion’s outage map and here to report an outage. VDEM also has a website dedicated to getting you and your family ready for a tornado as well as steps you should take if you are away from home.

Additionally, the Red Cross is providing a rundown of severe spring weather lifesaving safety tips:

TORNADOES can strike without warning and destroy a community in seconds. Before a tornado warning is issued for your area, here are some things you should do:

  1. Know your community’s warning system.
  1. Pick a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  1. If you are in a high-rise building and don’t have enough time to go to the lowest floor, pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
  1. Remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  1. Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

THUNDERSTORMS injure an average of 300 people every year, and cause about 80 fatalities. Here are the top thunderstorm safety steps you should follow:

  1. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  1. As the storm approaches, take shelter in a building.
  1. If you are driving, pull off the roadway and park. Stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside of the vehicle.
  1. If you are inside, unplug appliances and avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  2. If you are caught outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

FLOODING Heavy rains could fill rivers and streams, bringing flooding to the area. If your neighborhood is threatened with the possibility of flooding, here are some things you should do:

  1. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  1. Stay away from floodwaters.
  2. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  1. Keep children out of the water.
  1. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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