Severe Weather

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Winter Storm Thunderstorm Watch/Warning Severe Heat
Severe Cold Tornado Watch/Warning  
ETSU's Inclement Weather Policy

Severe Cold

Persons who must remain outdoors for considerable lengths of time should:

Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.

Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also take frequent breaks.

Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.

Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulation value and transmits heat rapidly.

Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia:

Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose, and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

Severe Heat

Know the symptoms of a heat emergency and what to do if you or someone you know falls victim:

  • Heat Exhaustion: The skin is cool, moist, pale or flushed. Heavy sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion may occur. Body temperature will be close to normal.

    Treatment : Move the victim to a cooler place and loosen or remove tight clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths to the skin and offer a half glass of water every 15 minutes.

  • Heat Stroke: The skin becomes hot and red. If the victim is sweating from physical exertion, the skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry. Changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing may occur. Body temperature can rise as high as 105 degrees.

    Treatment : Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation, so call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cooler place. Work quickly to cool the body by placing the victim in a cool bath or wrapping wet sheets around the body and then fanning it. Keep the person lying down and offer water. If there are changes in the victim's consciousness or if the person is vomiting, do not give anything to eat or drink.

Thunder and Lightening

One of the most dangerous of all storms is one of the most common. Some thunderstorms can be seen approaching while others hit without warning. It is important to learn and recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead. The danger signs of a thunderstorm include dark, towering or threatening clouds and/or distant lightning and thunder.

Thunderstorm Watch

A severe thunderstorm watchis issued by the National Weather Service when the weather conditions are such that a severe thunderstorm (damaging winds 58 mph or more, or hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or greater) is likely to develop.

Thunderstorm Warning

A severe thunderstorm warningis issued when a severe thunderstorm has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

During a Thunderstorm Warning

  1. Go inside for protection IMMEDIATELY.
  2. When inside, stay away from windows, water faucets, sinks, and bathtubs.
  3. If you are caught outside, STAY AWAY from tall trees, open fields or open water, or small, isolated sheds.


Tornadoes are nature's most violent — and erratic — storms with winds of 200-300 mph to be expected with the most violent tornadoes. Although tornadoes are most likely to occur in mid-afternoon, recent tornadic activity throughout the state proves that they may strike any time and any place. Tornadoes generally travel from the southwest to northeast. The cloud associated with a tornado is a dark, thunderstorm cloud from which a whirling, funnel-shaped pendent extends to or near the ground. Rain usually precedes the tornado, frequently with hail and as a heavy downpour.

  • Tornado Watch: A tornado watch is given when weather conditions are favorable to the formation of tornadoes, for example, during severe thunderstorms. During a tornado watch, keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado warning is given when a tornado funnel is sighted, indicated by radar, or is about to strike. You may only have a few minutes to go to safety.

Campus Tornado Warnings

Weather warnings are monitored by ETSU Public Safety. Upon receipt of a warning, a continuous (three-minute) alert will be sounded on the campus siren warning system. Warning for all ETSU campuses/centers will be passed from Public Safety to the Center Directors via telephone or the most expedient method. If a tornado warning is issued:

  1. Move to a predesignated shelter and remain there until the all-clear signal is given. Shelters are shown on the fire evacuation/emergency shelter diagrams located throughout university buildings. All personnel should become familiar with the shelter locations in their work area(s).
  2. Stay away from windows.

Winter Storms

ETSU students, faculty, and staff should always be aware of safety procedures to follow when severe weather strikes, such as a winter storm, a thunderstorm, or a tornado. Severe weather may also include extreme heat, so we also provide guidelines here on what to do if you encounter someone who is experiencing a heat-related emergency, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

A major winter storm can be lethal. Preparing for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms. During the winter storm season, listen to local forecasts to determine any impact the weather may have on your schedule. Be familiar with winter storm warning messages.

  • A Winter Storm Watch indicates that severe winter weather may affect the local area.

  • A Winter Storm Warning indicates that severe winter weather conditions are definitely on the way.

  • A Blizzard Warning means that large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35 mph are expected for several hours.

  • A Traveler's Advisory indicates that severe winter conditions

During a Snow Storm Watch

  • Stay tuned for developing weather conditions. Travel only if necessary.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation if using a portable heater.

During a Snow Storm Warning

  • Stay indoors until the WARNING is lifted. If you have to go outside, be sure to dress in several layers of clothes.
  • Be careful walking on snowy, icy sidewalks.

Avoid traveling in a storm if at all possible. If you must travel, remember the following:

  • Keep gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing. Let someone know where you are going and when you should get there.
  • Have emergency supplies in the car, including blankets.

ETSU Main Campus:
Call 439-4480 to report
police nonemergencies.

Call 911 for emergencies

VA Campus:
VA Police: (423) 979 3506

Emergencies: Dial 911

Local and 1-800 calling are available at these phones

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