On Thursday, Feb. 6, at 11:11 a.m., a NinerAlert was sent out with the subject “Tornado Warning - Main Campus.” The notice instructed students to move indoors and find an accessible basement or interior hallway to use as shelter.
At 11:04 a.m., a tornado-producing storm was detected four miles southwest of Gastonia moving at 60 mph. The notice also noted the potential impact of the storm as, “flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.”
The tornado warning was issued for Western Cabarrus County, Central Mecklenburg County and Southeastern Gaston County.
“When I first heard about the warning, my first instinct was to check the radar to see the path of the storm,” said sophomore meteorology student Cristian Gonzalez. “The tornadoes were small, but they did cause damage to locations around the Charlotte area such as Kannapolis, Matthews and Gastonia.”
At 11:25 a.m., another NinerAlert was sent with the subject “Tornado Warning Ongoing,” indicating that the tornado warning was effective until 11:45 a.m. This notice instructed students to continue to shelter until receiving an all-clear message.
At 12:22 p.m., an “All Clear” message was sent out, indicating the tornado warning was over. While UNC Charlotte was on top of quickly sending out alerts to inform those on campus of the impending weather, many students felt that there wasn’t a set plan on what to do in the situation.
“The severe storms were forecasted days prior to the event,” said Gonzalez. “The day before, local meteorologists were warning about the risk of tornadoes. It’s important to look at local sources to get more accurate information since some bigger weather companies do not track local weather well. An easy way to get precaution messages is through social media.”
Some professors let students out of classes early, but that involved students being outside in the undesirable weather. Others continued teaching while even more gathered their students into interior hallways or basements. It seemed there was a lack of preparation and confusion on proper execution of an emergency plan.
“We didn’t get it totally right,” said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois. “I asked a woman where the steps to the Student Union basement were and she told me there wasn’t a basement. I know there is; I built it. Some faculty members just kept teaching."
“To prepare for an event like this, there should be a guideline that UNC Charlotte faculty follows that leads people to a safe place,” said Gonzalez. “There should be pre-designated areas, known to faculty, for people on campus to go to should a tornado warning occur.”
UNC Charlotte’s Emergency Management's web page includes suggestions on how to prepare for a tornado, what to do during a tornado and what to do after a tornado. It is crucial to be prepared as weather is unpredictable and can turn unfavorable fast.