Clover Hill shelters amid tornado threat


Ben Schneider

Students face the wall in an interior hallway on the first floor to protect against tornadoes.

Around 1:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, Clover Hill was forced to enact tornado protocol after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning.

Students took shelter in interior hallways away from the windows, and everyone on the second floor moved down to the first floor. The school, along with the rest of the county, was under a shelter-in-place order as part of Chesterfield County Public Schools’ tornado warning response protocol. 

Senior Henry Yang was one of the students who left the second floor to move to an interior hallway away from windows on the first floor. Because he was in the safest possible spot, he did not feel concerned about the possibility of a tornado.

“With us being in a protected area, I would say [I’m not worried],” Yang said.

The warnings were the result of radar-indicated rotation in storm clouds that were moving towards the county. The cause of these storms was the remnants of Hurricane Nicole passing through Virginia. According to senior Ruby Simonpietri, the rotation was the result of the tropical system’s effect on the atmosphere. 

“We have a land-falling hurricane and they really like producing their own environments that really like tornadoes,” Simonpietri said. “So we had Nicole landfall a few days ago [in Florida] and now its remnants are up near us so we’re in that environment where tornadoes are favorable. What’s happening right now is somewhere up in the clouds, there’s a lot of rotation going on. 

Students and staff were able to return to classrooms after the warning expired at 2:45 p.m. The total response time was approximately an hour and a half. 

 Because of the effects of the warnings on the schedule, students were not able to leave until several minutes after the school day usually ends at 3 p.m., and bus riders had to wait because there was a bus delay. The buses were not able to start taking the middle school students home, which happens before high schools, until after the tornado warning expired. 

Despite the warnings, no confirmed tornadoes touched down in Chesterfield or adjacent counties in central Virginia. The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, which serves the central Virginia area, issued the warnings because the rotation in the clouds meant that a tornado could touch down at any moment; they had to warn the public ahead of time so that they were prepared. 

Simonpietri feels that sheltering in place was the right move despite the low risk of a tornado hitting the building.

“In terms of protecting student safety, I feel like we’re doing a good job with that,” Simonpietri said. “Really the only thing that could injure us right now is a really intense tornado … which is pretty unlikely.”