About Tornado Warnings and Watches
In March 2012, the University updated its Emergency Notification Protocols for responding to a tornado warning or watch issued by the National Weather Service.
Previously, the University activated the emergency sirens for a tornado warning issued for Orange County by the National Weather Service.
Now, the University has changed those criteria to be based on tornado warnings that are specific for Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The National Weather Service has developed a polygon (storm-based) method to more narrowly identify the path of a tornado and affected towns and cities. The University will now use that information as the basis for activating the sirens instead of a county-wide warning. This approach also is consistent with the tornado warning notification plan for UNC Health Care. (For more about the polygons, see http://www.nws.noaa.gov/sbwarnings/.)
If the weather service issues a tornado warning for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the University will activate the emergency sirens for a significant emergency or immediate threat to the health or safety of people on campus. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted, or that radar indicates a thunderstorm circulation that can spawn a tornado, according to the National Weather Service.
You need to take immediate safety precautions:
- Seek shelter immediately.
- Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.
- Avoid windows.
- If no shelter is available, lie down in a low-lying area.
- Protect yourself from flying debris.
Alert Carolina will send a text message to registered cell phones and start other notifications including campus e-mail.
If the weather service issues a tornado watch for Orange County, the University will send an informational text message, campus e-mail and other notifications. A watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. The weather service says people in these areas should be on the lookout for threatening weather conditions and listen for later statements and possible warnings.
The weather service updates this information regularly, so be sure to check the National Weather Service website listing the current status of watches, warnings or advisories for Orange County at http://alerts.weather.gov/cap/wwaatmget.php?x=NCC135.
The University will not send additional text, e-mail or other notifications to the campus community about a tornado watch since the status of those often change frequently during a weather event. If a new weather pattern enters the area that prompts a fresh watch after a 24-hour period, the University plans to reissue the watch notice as part of the ongoing monitoring efforts for potential serious weather conditions.
Specific information about preparing laboratories and protecting research in the event of a tornado watch or a tornado warning is included on the Department of Environment, Health and Safety website, http://ehs.unc.edu/fire/prep.shtml#tornadoes