Severe Weather

Flooding Tornado Hurricanes Lightning Winter Weather


Below are some tips that can help you stay safe in the event of heavy rainfall or flooding on and in and around the UNCW area.

When traveling to campus:

  • Leave extra time to make commutes.
  • Do not attempt to drive through standing water.
  • Do not circumvent barricades on campus; they are for your safety.
  • Students should use their best judgment and notify their instructors if they are unable to attend class.
  • Faculty and staff should refer to the Adverse Weather Policy and contact their supervisors with similar questions or concerns.

Be aware on campus, and adjacent to campus, areas that are likely to be closed due to high water:

  • Wagoner Drive in the area of Kenan Auditorium.
  • The intersection of Reynolds and Cahill Drives.
  • New Centre Drive
  • Seahawk Landing.
  • Honors Hall Parking Lot.
  • Parking Lots E, H and I.

Take Caution:
  • Relocate vehicles from flood-prone areas.
  • Use alternate entrances to campus away from flood-prone areas, including the Hurst Drive entrance off College Road or Hamilton Drive from MacMillan.
  • Park on the second level or higher of the parking garage.
  • Avoid using the pedestrian crossing at Reynolds and Cahill; use Chancellor's Walk instead.

Seek status updates here:

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Check out this You Tube video on Lightning:

If you have a special event coming up where you will be outdoors, EH&S has a lightning detector available for use. Please contact Jodie Ruskin to check for availability.

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A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from almost stationary to 70 mph.

In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is March through May. Most tornadoes that affect the UNCW area are F0 or F1. Tornadoes in our area are most likely to develop from tropical storms and hurricanes that affect New Hanover County.

The local National Weather Service office is the only entity legally allowed to issue a tornado watch or warning.


  • Tornado: A violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.
  • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible in the Watch area.
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado has actually been sighted, or indicated on radar somewhere in the warning area and more tornadoes are possible.
  • Fujita Scale: A scale for evaluating tornado severity based on damages. The following is a table reflecting the Fujita Scale:
Scale Wind Estimate (MPH) Typical Damage



Light Damage: Some damage to chimneys; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; street signs damaged.



Moderate Damage: Peeled surfaces off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving cars blown off roads.



Considerable Damage: Roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars overturned; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground.



Severe Damage: Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown.



Devastating Damage: Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.



Incredible Damage: Strong frame houses leveled off foundations and swept away; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters (109 yds); trees debarked; incredibly severe damage will occur.

*Fujita Scale information from

Recommended Actions

During a tornado watch:

If safe to do so, report any revolving funnel-shaped clouds to authorities, including University Police and the National Weather Service, Wilmington.
  • UNCW Police: 911
  • UNCW EH&S: 2-3057
  • National Weather Service, Wilmington: 1-800-697-3901

Stay tuned to local media

During a tornado warning:

A tornado is sighted or indicated on radar approaching the campus

  • If time permits, go to the interior hallway on the lowest floor.
  • If time does not permit, go to the safest area of your classroom or office (an inside wall) furthest away from the doors and windows.
  • Avoid windows, or areas with wide, free-span roofs. A special note for Trask: Move out of the arena area into a side corridor with no windows, or into a restroom.
  • Take shelter underneath a desk or any heavy furniture available.
  • Assume a curled position to protect your head
  • All qualified personnel should render first aid.
  • If you are in a modular unit:

Evacuate the modular unit immediatelyand take shelter in the closest safe building. When safely within a building that is not a modular unit, take shelter in an interior room of the building on the lower floor, if time permits.

After a tornado:

  • Continue to pay attention to National Weather Service warnings and watches as severe weather may continue.
  • Use caution when traveling on campus and avoid debris.
  • Report any severe damages to University Police.


When atornado warningis issued for New Hanover County, or signs of a tornado are seen/heard by UNCW emergency personnel, the outdoor siren system will be activated and the UNCW community will be notified of the warning through UNCW Alert.

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While winter weather in Wilmington is rare, it does affect UNCW occasionally. Students, faculty, and staff should be prepared if winter weather hits.

It is the policy of UNCW to maintain normal operations to the extent that this can be accomplished in a safe manner during conditions of snow and ice.

If we have snow and/or ice, the Chancellor and Crisis Decision Team will make a determination of the severity of the weather and if the University will officially close or have a delayed opening.

To find out about UNCW closings and delayed openings, call the Emergency Information Hotline at 962-3991 or toll free at 888-657-5751, check the UNCW homepage and safety Web site (, check your e-mail, and pay close attention to local media.

Priority will be given to supporting essential services to include supporting students in residence.

  • Residential buildings are first priority when restoring telecommunications, electricity, HVAC, and plumbing.

  • Campus Dining will ensure that there are adequate stocks of food supplies on hand for students who live on campus.

Winter Storm Preparedness Brochure from the Red Cross
Winter Storm Brochure - Federal Emergency Management

After winter weather has occurred, UNCW emergency personnel will work to ensure the campus is safe and free of ice and snow on roadways and building entrances.

During severe weather, employees can always refer to the Adverse Weather Policy if UNCW has not yet been closed or delayed.

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