Severe Storms Are Headed For Southern Virginia. Where Will They Hit?

By Brian Carlton

March 18, 2021

National Weather Service warns tornadoes, hail could hit Southern Virginia.

AXTON-If you live south of the US-460 corridor, prepare for some bad weather today. The National Weather Service warns a series of severe thunderstorms could hit Southern Virginia, bringing high winds, tornadoes and possibly at least a short-term power outage. 

There’s nothing to worry about in the morning hours. Rain’s in the forecast, but these will just be regular showers. NWS forecasters say the problem will make its way up from North Carolina around late afternoon. Why? The temperature changes.

In the morning, temperatures will be in the mid-to-high 40s. As the temperature gets warmer, there’s more of a chance for a thunderstorm. According to the NWS briefing Wednesday night, Southern Virginia can expect storms to start forming around 5 p.m.

What Does That Mean?

Now when we say Southern Virginia, that covers a lot of territory. Specifically, the briefing singled out Appomattox, Campbell, Charlotte, Franklin, Halifax, Henry and Pittsylvania counties as the ones most at risk. If you go further west, there is still some concern, but not as much. 

This storm system has already caused damage a bit further south, spawning tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center urged caution. During Wednesday’s briefing, NOAA officials said the system earned its highest threat level. It’s been almost two years since NOAA issued a “high risk” warning. The last one came in May 2019. 

On Thursday morning, it’s expected to pass through North Carolina and arrive in Southern Virginia this afternoon. As far as what that looks like, NWS forecasters say to expect wind gusts up to 60 mph. Quarter-sized hail is also possible and in some areas, tornadoes could spawn. 

Yes, that means downed trees and powerlines. Less than a month after the last ice storm shut things down, the power could go out for at least a few hours. Dogwood reached out to Appalachian Power and Dominion, asking what steps they were taking to prepare, but had not heard back as of 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Who’s At Risk in Southern Virginia?

So we know storms are coming this afternoon and now we know wind gusts, hail and possibly tornadoes are on the way. But who is at risk? Here’s a look at the National Weather Service Risk Map for Virginia, up to the state line with North Carolina.

As the labels say, green means a marginal risk for storms, yellow means a slight risk and orange means a significant or “enhanced” risk of bad weather.

Severe Storms Are Headed For Southern Virginia. Where Will They Hit?

How Do I Prepare?

So what happens now? If the storms are coming this afternoon, how do you prepare? The National Weather Service offers some suggestions there as well.

  • The power’s likely going to go off at some point. Be sure you have flashlights and batteries at an easy to reach location. A coffee table in the living room or a nearby bookcase are good examples.
  • When the storm hits, avoid using running water or any landline phones. Why? Electricity can travel through the phone or plumbing lines.
  • If you have time this morning, it’s a good idea to make sure any outdoor furniture is secure. By that, the NWS means tied down. Depending on how fast the wind gusts get, unsecured items can turn into projectiles. Basically, you don’t want chairs flying towards your windows.
  • Finally, watch for those fallen trees or power lines. Don’t try to walk around them. Call the power company immediately.

Above all, just stay inside and take precautions. The storm is supposed to pass through Thursday night, leaving the area by Friday.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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