Prepare for the dangers

Published 9:09 am Friday, May 2, 2014

Cities and towns across the Southeast have been hunkering down in recent days as lines of deadly thunderstorms have blown through, leaving destruction and more than 30 deaths in their wake. With violent cells having torn through Western Tidewater throughout the week, folks were bracing themselves for the recent onslaught — which, based on their history, could be the worst of the year.

When most folks in Hampton Roads think about severe weather, the picture that comes to mind is of a massive hurricane churning toward the Chesapeake Bay from somewhere off the Outer Banks. And it’s understandable that the direct and regular threat people in Franklin and Southampton face from hurricanes each year is the one that usually occupies their attention.

But the fact is that the area is threatened many times each year by the meteorological conditions that produce tornadoes. And when nor’easters howl through the area, they can bring serious and potentially dangerous flooding.

In fact, neighboring Suffolk has suffered both problems in recent memory.

In April 2008, hundreds of homes were destroyed when a tornado ground its way through neighborhoods near Sentara Obici Hospital and in Driver. There were many injuries and a few miraculously close calls, but incredibly there were no deaths.

It took years for those communities to rebuild, and observant visitors can still see some of the scars from the violent storm that spawned the twister.

Flooding, especially in the low-lying Kimberly area, has been less of a danger to life and limb, but it has still cost homeowners and businesses dearly as they’ve helplessly watched water inexorably rising into their buildings in the midst of torrential rains.

The lesson in all cases is that extreme weather can arrive with little advance notice and offers little to no chance to fight its effects. The best most folks can do is to be ready to stay safe during and after the nightmare. This includes creating a disaster supplies kit and making sure you can receive emergency messages from the National Weather Service and from state and local authorities.

The Weather Service advises Americans to “Be a Force of Nature” by preparing themselves for severe weather emergencies. One good place to start is on the agency’s website,, where you can see all the various weather alerts that are in effect around the nation at any given time.

Another great resource for those who wish to be prepared for emergencies is, where you can explore the various risks to your community and find the federal government’s best advice on getting yourself ready for the worst. Virginia operates a similar website at

Living in the Southeast comes with its own set of dangers and challenges. Being ready for those challenges and aware of the dangers won’t keep the storms at bay, but it will help you and your community better handle the destruction they leave behind.