Tornado Exercise Recap Day 1

Emergency Operations Center

Staff from multiple county departments and some partners began participating in an exercise today that will run through Wednesday night.

Fairfax County Government and many key partners began a three-day emergency exercise today focused on fake tornadoes that hit our community.  We’re going to share a few details of the fake tornadoes so you can think about how your life could have been impacted either in the path of the tornadoes or if the paths struck another part of the county.

A quick note about emergency exercises, though. They are written to simulate what could happen and what’s described below is plausible. Our response and that of our community partners then drives how events unfold as the situation continues to develop.

The fake tornadoes struck around 8 a.m. in the western part of Fairfax County near Centreville, Chantilly and Fair Lakes:

  • 63,000+ residents affected by tornado including hundreds of injuries and some fatalities.
  • Numerous properties were impacted by the fake tornadoes and people were trapped. A few schools were also impacted before the school day began. Initial assessment found approximately 70 commercial buildings and approximately 65 single family dwellings throughout Fairfax County collapsed or sustained significant damage. 
  • Route 28 bridge over I-66 collapsed and that intersection was not passable for many hours; one lane is now getting by this afternoon as part of the exercise. Heavy traffic volume and major detours resulted.
  • Route 28 is closed for the duration of the night from Westfields Blvd. to Stone Road for inspections.
  • Water and sewage use was limited south of Dulles Airport and West of the City of Fairfax as the Upper Occoquan Service Authority’s plant in Centreville was affected.
  • Power and gas were out south of Route 50 and west of Route 123.
  • We asked people to stay off the roads for many hours to let first responders do their job.
  • Shelters have been established for people displaced.
  • Parents were required to pick up students from many schools in the western part of the county as school bus service was suspended (school staff remained on scene until every child was picked up). 

Path of today’s fake tornadoes:

Path of Fake Tornadoes During Fairfax County's Emergency Exercise March 2012

As we go into the overnight period and into exercise play on Tuesday, we’ll transition to a recovery phase.

Questions to think about:

  • What would you be thinking about if this happened?
  • How could you be more prepared?
  • What impacts would this have on your daily schedule?
  • How would you communicate with limited power?
  • Are you ready for an incident like this?
  • What do you expect from Fairfax County Government? What do you expect from the whole community as we all respond (nonprofits, business, etc.)?
  • Other questions to think about from our blog post last week.

Leave your comments/questions here on the blog so we can learn from you. We simulated the use of social media and other communications by the public, but we’d love to hear your thoughts here, too.

And don’t forget the statewide tornado drill Tuesday morning at 9:45 a.m.

About Fairfax Gov

Official emergency information about preparedness, response and recovery from Fairfax County Government.

6 responses to “Tornado Exercise Recap Day 1”

  1. Jerrold Foltz says :

    Pretty devastating! But Stone Road does not intersect with Rt. 28. Maybe that is a typo? It intersects with U.S. 29, which looks like the path of the tornado.

  2. Ellen Eggerton says :

    Someone taking to my husband thought there was a real tornado in Falls Church because they said they got an email from Falls Church officials. Right after he called me to ask if there could be a real tornado in Falls Church the same day as the drill, they sent another message about it being a drill.

    But I did not see the email. Maybe jurisdictions should coordinate a public message so that citizens do not get mixed messages. One from Fairfax and another from Falls Church.

    Maybe we could have a way to convey a drill versus a real event so that people would more easily understand.

    When Virginia had the earthquake the students at CHristopher Newport did not know it was an earthquake because they had been told that construction was going to happen on campus that day. So this is an example of giving more or better information about alerts and drills.

    What should a drill message say to clarify if a real event were to occur at the same time?

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