The Statewide Tornado Drill is a yearly opportunity to encourage Virginians to prepare for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems. Tornadoes can strike quickly, with little to no warning, causing extensive damage to structures and disrupting transportation, power, water, gas, communications and other services in its direct path and in neighboring areas.Although the official drill is set for March 20 at 9:45 a.m., this year the Newport News Department of Emergency Management is providing more opportunity for people to participate. The concept of the drill still remains the same; however, the department is opening the window for completion to allow as much participation as possible. The window for completion is from the March 15th through the 31st. Information about how to conduct a tornado drill is available on the state’s Emergency Management site. Staff from Newport News Emergency Management are available to anyone who would like assistance in preparations, the drill, and evaluation. Participants can contact the department at 269-2900.“Tornadoes can occur any month of the year. Last year 25 confirmed tornadoes touched down throughout the Commonwealth,” said Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “When a tornado watch is issued for your area, have a plan and know where to seek safe shelter should a tornado warning be issued.”In order to issue a “certificate of participation,” the Newport News Department of Emergency Management is asking participants to document their drill on social media using the hashtag #NNTornadoDrill18. They can also email photos or other documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants are encouraged to register for the drill on The Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s site at http://www.vaemergency.gov/tornadodrill.