FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) - It was a frantic search for survivors at the Plaza Towers Elementary School In Moore, Okalahoma after the massive tornado ripped the building to shreds.
An F-4 tornado would be extremely rare in the Washington, D.C. area. But smaller tornadoes, which can be very deadly, have and do hit this area.
"We're not Oklahoma, but we do have tornadoes in this region and we have to take them seriously," said Ken Wilson, Safety specialist with the Fairfax County public schools. He remembers watching a destructive tornado hit Centreville in 2004.
In the 1970s, two F3 tornadoes hit the Woodson High School in Fairfax. The first one, in 1973, hit at 3 p.m. on April Fool's day, thankfully, a Sunday, when few people were in the building. Ken Wilson remembers.
"It took the foreign language wing off and ripped of the roof of the gymnasium," Wilson said.
The other F3 hit Woodson in 1979.
This time it missed the main building, Wilson says, but tore down all the outdoor buildings, the stadium lights and bleachers. Fortunately, there were no deaths in either storm.
Wilson says Virginia sees and average of 12 tornadoes every year. That's why the state requires all schools to hold tornado drills every March.
At a 2010 tornado drill at Dominion High School in Sterling demonstrates, everybody comes inside the main building, evacuating any trailers, and gets into a hallway or interior room with no windows.
They get down on their hands and knees with their heads on the ground by the wall and cover their heads and necks with their hands.
Wilson is a believer in the value of preparing for the worst: "You can have the best plan, but if it's not practiced, it's not going to work."