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When storms are “bruin”: Emergency preparedness for severe weather

On April 16, 1998, one of the costliest tornadoes to ever strike Tennessee touched down at 2:30 p.m. in downtown Nashville and ravaged the area, causing upwards of $113 million in damages.

As the tornado– rated an F3 on the Fujita Scale– tore through downtown, over 35 buildings including skyscrapers were deemed structurally unsound.

Although an event of this magnitude has not occurred since then, as the temperature rises and the seasons change each spring, severe weather season is here once again.

Between 1830 and the present day, two-thirds of Middle Tennessee’s tornadoes have occurred from March to May, according to historical data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

As such, although stress is already high as students and faculty approach finals, it is important to be aware of the severe weather guidelines for each part of campus during this season.

Proper procedures may be unknown to first-year students—and even students who have moved residence halls from year-to-year.

While residence hall procedures vary, there a few things that all halls have in common. In the public areas of each hall, generally on a floor-by-floor basis, there will be signage that the RAs will hang from designated notification areas. These signs may provide information such as “Flash Flood Watch” or “Severe/Inclement Weather Warning.”

In addition to these signs, all halls will typically follow the same process for different types of severe weather:

  1. Severe Thunderstorm Warning: A sign is posted and weather is monitored by residence directors.

  2. Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for the formation of tornado. It is commonly conjunctive with the posting of the Severe Thunderstorm Warning Severe weather sign, and weather is being monitored.

  3. Tornado Warning: A tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted nearby, meaning radar has indicated tornado formation. Residence directors notify RAs to alert residents of tornado warning. Residents are moved to the lowest floor of residence hall, preferably a location with any windows at all. For example, in Patton Hall and Potter Hall, the basement hallway is the designated location for residents when a tornado warning has been issued for Davidson County.

Students should talk with a resident assistant from their hall if they have any further questions about the specific procedures.

As for other campus spaces outside of residence halls, although there isn’t a specific procedure that applies to all of these locations, follow the general guidelines provided by the NOAA:

  1. If outside, seek shelter inside a sturdy building.

  2. If in class or already inside a building, go to the lowest possible floor, or an interior hallway away from windows.

  3. If you can’t find a room without windows, crouch face-down with your arms over your head to cover yourself from any debris.

Safety is always first, so students should make sure to be well-acquainted with the guidelines for residence halls, and comply with a university authority figure if they are providing directions for how to respond to a particular severe weather situation.

For further information about tornado warning procedure, reference the NOAA guide at

This article was written by Danny Zydel.

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