Severe Weather

Flooding Tornado Hurricanes Lightning Winter Weather

Safety Info for Heavy Rain & Floods

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.

Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can happen at any time. In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is March through May. Eighty-eight percent of all tornadoes are weak tornadoes, with a lifetime of 1-10+ minutes and winds less than 110 mph.


  • 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 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


During a tornado watch:

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, the UNCW web page, and the UNCW Emergency Hotline for weather alerts and emergency instructions.
  • UNCW Emergency Information Hotline: (910) 962-3991 or (888) 657-5751

During a tornado warning:

A tornado is sighted approaching the campus (tornado warning):

  • 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, auditoriums, gymnasiums, or other structures with wide, free-span roofs.
  • Take shelter underneath a desk or any heavy furniture available.
  • Assume a curled position to protect your
  • All qualified personnel will render first aid as necessary.
  • If you are in a building with a wide, free-span roof (Trask Coliseum or Warwick Center Ballroom):
  • Evacuate the room with the wide-free span roof immediately and go to the closest safe location, i.e., an interior room without a wide, free-span roof and/or the lowest floor of the building.
  • If you are in a modular unit:

    Evacuate the modular unit immediately and 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 a tornado watch is issued for New Hanover County, or a tornado warning is issued for Brunswick County, Pender County, or Columbus County, notification to faculty, staff, and students will be sent out via UNCW Alert, mass email and a message will be posted on @UNCW, the UNCW homepage, and the UNCW news page. The notification will instruct the UNCW community to watch the weather, cancel any outdoor activities, and review UNCW and departmental tornado procedures.

When a tornado warning is issued for New Hanover County, or signs of a tornado are seen/heard by UNCW emergency personnel, the UNCW community will be notified of the warning via mass email, and the information will be posted on @UNCW, the UNCW homepage, and the UNCW news page. A message will also be recorded on the UNCW Emergency Information Hotline. Communications during a warning will also include instructions to vacate modular structures, to call University Police at 911 to report injuries or damage, to remain sheltered until the warning has expired, and steps on how to remain safe during a tornado

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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.

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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