By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD News & Journal Editor
Last week, March 18-22 was declared ‘West Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week by Governor Jim Justice. As part of this declaration, it was announced that a statewide Tornado Safety Drill was to take place on Tuesday, March 19th at 10:30 a.m. and as part of the campaign, TEST tornado warnings would be issued by the National Weather Service using all available resources including radio and television warning messages.
The purpose of giving such attention to Weather Awareness Week was to encourage residents of the Mountain State to “be prepared” in case of such an emergency and to update their emergency plans.
Nearly every press release received by The News & Journal proclaimed the “Shinnston Tornado” as an example of the devastating effects that can be generated by a weather emergency like a tornado. While tornadoes may be rare in West Virginia and while some may believe that residents here are somewhat protected by our hills, news releases last week cited the 1944 Shinnston Tornado as “a tragic reminder that natural disasters can strike suddenly, without warning, and in many forms”.
It is reported that since the mid-1800’s, there have been only four tornadoes in West Virginia – three of those were not extremely significant. West Virginia is listed as being among the states with the lowest rate of occurrences of such storms.
The Shinnston Tornado, however, is called the “deadliest tornado in West Virginia’s history”. It reared its ugly head June 22-23, 1944, with tornadic activity across a path from southwestern…