Tornado, Storms hit northern VA

If you’ve never heard a Tornado Warning, it sounds a bit like this…

  • First the radio station you are listening to suddenly goes silent, then a metalic buzzer sounds three times, pauses, then buzzes thrice more.
  • A computerized, disembodied voice announces that the emergency broadcast system has been activated “for YOUR area” which always makes it feel more exciting.
  • Next the voice states the nature of the threat “a Tornado Warning is in effect for Fairfax County until 3:30pm”. At this point you realise this isn’t a “Tornado Watch” which means “be careful there may be one about” this is a full on “Warning” meaning the conditions are right, and chances are one could happen at any moment, without warning.
  • Then things become practical “Stay away from windows, go down into the basement, if you do not have a basement go to an interior room or corridor. Trailers and vehicles in the path of the storm should be abandoned for more substantial cover”. Yes, reread that last sentence, tornadoes are no joke.

This happened a lot yesterday afternoon, between severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches, and tornado warnings we saw some amazingly exciting weather. What did I do? I stood with colleagues at our 5th floor full length glass window, watching the rain get pushed off the corner of our building as a solid wall of water, like some crazy garden feature twisted 90 degrees, whilst the wind blew the small ornamental trees (12 feet tall or so) from side to side almost touching their branches to the ground.

Fortunately our office never lost power, however we all received phonecalls and text message from “back home” wherever home was in the area reporting that the power was out. Dominion Power (the local power company) at one time was reporting over 250,000 customers in the area were without power, and that it could take until Saturday night for power to be restored. In the end Laura and I ate at a local restaurant between the storms, and then returned to my office until almost 9pm letting the second big wave roll over us before heading home. Power was on in our neighbourhood when we drove in, but had been out for about 6 hours, and much of our commute was swathed in darkness without even traffic lights to guide the way.

You can read more about the region’s surprisingly exciting weather through these links:

WTOP – local radio – 263,000 without electricity after storms

Washington Post – newspaper – One Dead After Powerful Storms

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – real time Warnings and Advisories for Virginia

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