Schools participated in tornado drill

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012

After hearing the call of “Code Blue” on Tuesday morning, teachers at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School led their young charges out of their classrooms, gathered them in interior hallways and showed them how to crouch and cover their heads.

Code Blue means a severe weather alert, and the students were going through a tornado drill to prepare for the real thing.

All of Suffolk’s public schools and school support buildings participated in the statewide drill. But at Elephant’s Fork, which narrowly escaped the tornado that ripped through the city nearly four years ago, it had special meaning.

Elephant’s Fork Elementary School teacher Lisa McLaughlin supervises her pre-K class during the tornado drill on Tuesday. The students got into interior hallways, crouched and covered their heads.

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“This is the first time since the tornado that we’ve had classes in the mobile units,” Principal Veleka Gatling said, explaining that only resource offices have been in the units in the interim.

The April 28, 2008 twister knocked some of the school’s mobile units off their foundations and destroyed modular homes within shouting distance, although the school building itself had no damage.

During Tuesday’s drill, classes from the mobile units calmly filed into the main building and crouched beside a wall in the gymnasium. Students from classrooms along the perimeter of the school came into the hallways, while some went to interior classrooms.

All the students crouched with their foreheads on the floor next to the wall and their hands covering the backs of their heads.

“We practiced a weather drill in September, so they’ve done it one time already (this school year),” Gatling said.

Though the drill occurred on the first day of spring and tornados are often thought to be more likely during spring, there is no such thing as a “tornado season,” according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.