Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tornado Drill Day for MN Severe Weather Awareness Week

With the storms starting to ramp up just to our south (Nebraska, Texas area) just in the last couple of days; and with an expected outbreak coming for this weekend. Today is the day to take heed in participating in the Tornado Drills.

Today is the day for the annual Statewide Tornado Drills. The sirens will go off at 1:45pm and again tonight at 6:55pm.

Would you be ready in 13 minutes?

A tornado warning has been issued and you are in the path of one of the 1300 tornadoes that hit the U.S. each year. On average you now have 13 minutes to get to a safe place out of the severe weather.

Do you have a plan?

Where would you go?

Will you, your family, your students be safe?

Making a plan is the biggest thing you can do.

Tornado Safety Information
Before the Tornado...
Tornado watches highlight the area where tornadoes are most likely to develop. Continue with your normal activites, but keep informed of the latest weather information and be ready to get to shelter in case tornadoes develop quickly.

In the Home...
Go to the basement if possible. Get under a table, work bench, or some other sturdy furniture to avoid falling debris and cover yourself with a mattress or a sleeping bad. Know where your heavy objects rest on the floor above (ie: refrigerators, pianos, waterbeds, etc.) and do no place yourself under them. A stairwell is also a good place to hide during a tornado. AVOID WINDOWS.

If You Cannot Get to a Basement (or your house doesn't have one)
Go to a small interior room on the lowest floor. Closets, bathrooms, and interior halls afford the best protection in most cases, or try to hide under a bed. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath rub may offer a shell of partial protection. In an interior room your should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc) to protect yourself from falling debris.  Stay away from windows.

In an Apartment, or High Rise...
If you live in an apartment that is on an upper floor, get to the lowest level of the building that you can immediately. This could be an underground parking garage or a neighbor's first floor apartment. Move to the inner-most room on the lowest level or to a pre-designated shelter area.

If you live in a highrise you may not have enough time to get to the lowest level; so picking a place in the hallway in the center of your building is the best ideas situation. A place such as an interior stairwell would work. If that is not available; then a closet, bathroom or interior hall without windows would be best.  AVOID ELEVATORS; as power loss is common. Keep a flashlight handy. Stay away from windows. If in a hallway, crouch down and protect your head from flying debris. Avoid areas with glass and large roof expansions.

In an Office building, Hospital or Store...
Follow instructions from facility manager. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building - away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators - if power was lost you would be trapped in them. Carry a flashlight is you can find one handy.

In A Mobile Home

Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you. 

At A School

Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In A Car or Truck

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive away from its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes.  Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building.  If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can accelerate the wind while offering little protection against flying debris.

In The Open Outdoors

If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado. 

In A Shopping Mall, Large Store or Stadium

Listen for instructions from building security. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows. Move away from any glass.

In a church or theater

If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

Know the Difference

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Now that we understand where to go in a tornado warning: here is information on the test drill today.

Tornado Drill Day 

For more than 20 years, the state of Minnesota has conducted a Severe Weather Awareness  Week in partnership with the National Weather Service and local governments. A statewide tornado drill is part of that event.

Most local and statewide radio, TV and cable stations will be participating in the drill.  Television viewers and radio station listeners and TV viewers should hear or see a simulated tornado warning message at 1:45 p.m.  This tornado drill warning should last about one minute.  When the test is completed, stations should return to normal programming.  

In addition, alerts for both the simulated tornado watches and warnings will be issued over the NOAA Weather Radios in the area which will activate the radio alerts.  The afternoon drill will also occur at the same time in Wisconsin and is expected to be broadcast on most radio and TV stations.
Want to participate in the drill but don't know how? Check out this list  for some ideas on how you or your organization can participate. 


The National Weather Service, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Minnesota Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and other state, county and local agencies have come together to host Severe Weather Awareness Week activities.
On Thursday April 24, 2014 simulated tornado watches and warnings will be issued to test the statewide warning and communications systems. All counties in Minnesota normally participate in the first drill at 1:45 p.m. unless actual severe weather is expected. The schedule is as follows:
1:00 p.m.  All six weather National Weather Service offices that serve Minnesota will issue a simulated tornado watch (TOA).  NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOA code.
1:45 p.m.  The National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning (TOR) for Minnesota counties. Note that most cities and counties will activate outdoor warning siren systems. NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
2:00 p.m. The National Weather Service will issue an "End of Test" message using the Severe Weather Statement product.  No alarm on weather radio.
6:55 pm.  The National Weather Service offices will issue another simulated tornado warning (TOR).  NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
7:10 pm.  The National Weather Service will issue an "End of Test" message using the Severe Weather Statement product.  No alarm on weather radio.

Siren Activation Information

Counties and cities own, operate and maintain all local sirens, and set their own policy on how and when to activate them. The National Weather Service does not operate them. There are many different policies regarding siren activation that are used by the various cities and counties. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings only. 
Others will activate sirens countywide for tornado warnings and all severe thunderstorm warnings. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms that have winds of at least 70 or 75 mph.

Others will activate sirens only for portions of counties.  Local officials may also sound the sirens anytime they believe severe weather is a threat, even if there is no warning from the National Weather Service.

Sirens normal sound for about three minutes, and then go silent.  It is very rare to keep the sirens sounding for the entire warning, since that would cause the backup battery to run out, which would be critical in the event that power goes out.  Furthermore, the siren motor will fail much more quickly if the siren sounds continuously.  Some jurisdictions may repeat siren activation every few minutes.
Note: There is no such thing as an all-clear siren.
Afternoon Tornado Drill April 24, 2014 - 1:45 p.m.
The drill traditionally occurs on Thursday afternoon at 1:45 p.m., when jurisdictions across Minnesota sound their outdoor warning sirens. Schools, businesses and other facilities are encouraged to conduct a tornado drill at this time to practice their tornado sheltering plans.

Evening Tornado Drill April 24, 2014 - 6:55 p.m.
The reason for a 6:55 p.m. drill is that severe weather including tornadoes occurs most often between 3 and 8 p.m. The statewide 1:45 p.m. drill gives institutions, first-shift and day workers a time to practice, but it does not allow second-shift workers the same opportunity.  The 6:55 p.m. tornado drill also allows families to practice their sheltering plans.
let's be prepared and make a plan, build an emergency kit, and stay informed.Learn the weather terminologies and be ready this up and coming severe weather season.

Here is some great links to learn more about tornadoes; research and how you can prepare for and be ready for in case this situation arises.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MN Severe Weather Awareness Week: Wednesday: Floods

We are in the middle of Minnesota's Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Today's topic is covering Floods.

Floods and Flash Floods
On a National Level...
Floods claim nearly 200 lives annually, force 300,000 persons from their homes, and result in property damage in excess of 2 billion dollars. Characteristically, 75 percent of flash flood deaths occur at night with half of the victims dying in their automobiles or other vehicles. It may be difficult to believe, but many deaths occur when persons knowingly drive around road barricades indicating the road is washed out ahead.

 In 2007, a deadly flood occurred August 18-19 in southeast Minnesota, killing seven people and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. A state record for rainfall was set at Hokah — 15.1 inches in 24 hours — while several other areas received more than eight inches of rain.

Are You Prepared?
Assume a thunderstorm produces 6 inches of rain in less than 6 hours time near your community. Storms of this magnitude or greater occur several times each year in the U.S.  Would you know what action to take to protect yourself and the people who depend on you for safety? After a major flood event, one of the most common quotes from the survivors of the flood is the expression they did not believe it could happen to them or in their community.

Before the Flooding...
There is nothing anyone can do to prevent the occurrence of flash flood producing rainfall. However, by striving for sound flood plain zoning, developing an emergency action plan in advance of the disaster, purchasing flood insurance at least 30 days before the flooding, and being aware of the dangers associated with extremely heavy rainfall and flooding, there is a chance of decreasing the death toll and property damage that results from flash flooding.

  1. Assemble an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live on for a minimum of three days.
  2. Make an emergency plan for you and your family and share it with them.
    Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government.
  3. Get a NOAA Weather Radio. Listen for information and warnings.
  4. Elevate appliances such as the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk. 
  5. Consider installing "check valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins. 
  6. If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds. 
  7. Get Flood Insurance. Property insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage. You may also want to learn about the National Flood Insurance Program at
 Driving Safety
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

What to do in a Flash Flood

    Flash floods occur within six hours of the beginning of heavy rainfall. Below are some guidelines for keeping safe during a flash flood:
    • Be prepared to evacuate and go to high ground immediately.
    • Get out of areas subject to flooding, such as low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
    • Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream on foot. Even water only six inches deep, when moving at a high rate of speed, can knock you off your feet.
    • Never drive through flooded areas or standing water. Shallow, swiftly flowing water can wash a car from a roadway. Also, the roadbed may not be intact under the water.
    • If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants.
    • Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood dangers.
    • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
    • Understand the difference between a Flash Flood Watch and a Flash Flood Warning

Know the Terms

​Flash Flood Watch Flash Flood Warning​
Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information​ Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.​

Perfect timing to cover floods as we are experiencing spring rains this week. One important thing to remember is TURN AROUND... DON'T DROWN!!!

Here are some good sites on flood safety and prepardness:

Stay tuned for Tomorrow when it is the biggest day: Tornadoes with Simulated drills at 1:45pm and 6:55pm.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MN Severe Weather Awareness Week: SEVERE STORMS

It's the second day of the MN Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Are you ready for severe weather? The week of April 21-25 is a great time to make and practice your emergency plan and build an emergency kit.

Make a Plan.  Build a Kit. Stay Informed this severe weather season!!

Today's subject is on: Severe Storms, Lightning, Wind and Hail

Affect relatively small areas when compared with most other storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts for 30 minutes. Despite this size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Severe thunderstorms produce large hail or winds of at least 58 mph. Some wind gusts can exceed 100 mph and produce tornado-like damage. Many communities will sound their outdoor sirens for very damaging straight-line winds. When a severe thunderstorm threatens, stay inside a strong structure. Mobile home occupants should go to a more permanent structure.

Is another product of thunderstorms that annually causes nearly one billion dollars in damage throughout the United States. Many of the losses are incurred by farmers. The most common diameter is pea size, but hail can be as large as golf balls and baseballs. In extreme cases, hail can reach grapefruit size. Large hail stones fall at speeds faster than 100 mph and have been known to kill people.

Thunderstorm Winds...
Thunderstorms can produce strong wind gusts. These straight-line winds have been known to exceed 100 mph. For this reason, you should treat severe thunderstorms just as you would tornadoes. Move to an appropriate shelter if you're in the path of the storm.
The strong outrush of wind from a thunderstorm is often called a downburst. One of the primary causes is rain-cooled air, which accelerates rapidly downward, producing a potentially damaging gust of wind.
Strong downbursts are often mistaken for tornadoes. They can produce extensive damage and are often accompanied by a roaring sound similar to that of a tornado. Downbursts can easily overturn mobile homes, tear roofs off of houses, and topple trees. People who are camping are especially vulnerable, due to trees toppling on their camp sites.

Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which on a national basis kills more people than tornadoes in a given year.
Lightning kills around 100 Americans annually, with about 300 injuries. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, there have been many deaths and injuries over the years, most in areas such as camp grounds, although people have been injured indoors when talking on the phone.
The following are some lightning safety tips...
  1. All thunderstorms produce lightning. It is surprising that so many people are not aware of this.
  2. Get inside a building or enclosed vehicle. Many fatalities occur when the warning signs are ignored.
  3. If caught in an open area with lightning all around, crouch down immediately! Put your hands on your knees but do not lie down on the ground.
  4. Do not use a telephone or electrical appliance. A nearby lightning strike can travel through the phone or power lines right into the home.
  5. Avoid seeking shelter beneath lone trees.
Myths and facts about lightning...

Myth: If it's not raining, there is no danger from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes away from heavy rainfall, and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

Myth: Rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being injured by lightning.
Fact: Rubber provides no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection from lightning (if you are not touching metal in the car).

Myth: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
Fact: Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.

Myth: Heat lightning occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat.
Fact: What is referred to as "heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.

Here is a great booklet that you can view on the web, and even print out if you like about sever thunderstorms:

Know your Warning Terms!

Severe Thunderstorm Watch - weather conditions are favorable for producing severe thunderstorms. Remain alert and stay informed.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - severe weather has been reported. Seek shelter immediately!

Make a Plan.  Build a Kit. Stay Informed this severe weather season!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

MN Severe Weather Awareness Week 2014 & Today's Subject

Severe Weather Awareness Week of 2014 has once again arrived for South Dakota and Minnesota this week.

Below is a wonderful, straight forward and to the point, information packed video produced by the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

In this video is stresses the importance on what you can do as an individual or a family to prepare and plan to stay safe when severe weather strikes; as well as how to stay very well informed and well ahead of the storm by using active and exiting local National Weather Service Based and Broadcasted as well as social media items. There are also other informative products and items that are available to the public!

Minnesota on their website has in informative link that highlights the saftey, prepardness along with the weeks severe weather topics and statewide Tornado Drill information to help you plan ahead of the storm.

Make a Plan.  Build a Kit. Stay Informed this severe weather season!!

Today we will focus on the subject: Weather Alerts and Warnings 

Severe Weather Watches and Warnings, and How to Receive Severe Weather Information
Are issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms or flash floods. If you are in a watch area, continue with normal activities but also make plans to seek shelter if necessary.

Are issued when severe weather has been reported or is imminent. Seek shelter immediately if you are in or near the path of the storm. Warnings are issued by county and city names. Make sure you know the name of the county in which you live and the cities that surround you.

Advance Information...
The forecast and warning process begins one or more days ahead of time, when the threat area is determined. Hazardous weather outlooks are issued early every morning, and updated as conditions warrant.

If a Watch is Issued...
Local weather offices are staffed with extra personnel. State officials are notified and they pass the information to the county and local level. Counties and cities activate their spotter groups as the threat increases. TV and radio stations pass the word to the public.

If a Warning is Issued...
Warnings are disseminated swiftly in a multitude of ways, including TV, radio, and over the internet. Advances in technology have allowed people to receive warnings via cell phone, pager, and numerous other methods. Spotters provide important reports on the storm, and emergency officials carry out the plans that the emergency managers have developed. Updates are issued frequently until the immediate threat has ended.

Counties and cities own the sirens and therefore decide how and when to activate them.  The National Weather Service does not sound them. There are many different policies by counties and cities. Some will activate them across the entire county for a tornado warning only. Others will activate sirens countywide for tornado warnings and all severe thunderstorm warnings. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms that have winds of at least 70 or 75 mph.  Others will activate sirens only for portions of counties. Also, local officials may sound the sirens anytime they believe severe weather is a threat, even if there is no warning from the National Weather Service.
Sirens normally sound about 3 minutes and then go silent. It is very rare to keep the sirens sounding for the entire warning, since that will cause the backup battery to run out, which would be critical in the event power goes out. Furthermore, the siren motor will fail much more quickly if the siren sounds continuously. Some jurisdictions may repeat siren activation every few minutes.  There is no such thing as an "All Clear" for storms.

Media outlets receive the warning information and disseminate it to you, often by interrupting programming. Many television stations use a crawl and other visual means.

NOAA Weather Radio...
The tone alert feature of NOAA Weather Radio will activate specially built receivers, sounding an alarm to alert you to the danger.  It sounds its alert anytime the National Weather Service issues a warning, even in the middle of the night. Make sure you have a NOAA Weather Radio, as you can not always depend on sirens, phone calls or seeing the warnings on television.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the subject on Sever Storms Lightning Wind and Hail.