Severe Storm Awareness Week: Be prepared

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/21/98.

Thunderstorms, hail and straight-line winds can create havoc in a community. But following the recent tornadoes that have affected several communities in Minnesota and in other parts of the nation, Severe Storms Awareness Week, April 20 to 24, only heightens the need to be prepared in an emergency.

The 1998 Severe Storms Awareness Week campaign, as proclaimed by Governor Carlson, is designed to educate citizens, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, and facilities on the need to plan for tornadoes and severe weather and to stress the need for exercising those plans.

Violent storms that lance from thunderclouds can carve paths of destruction through lives and communities. There is no way to stop them. But they can be seen, people can be saved. Only one instrument can detect a tornado funnel with complete certainty, the human eye.

On Wednesday the focus of the week is lightning, as it is the number one killer and injury producer over all other summer weather threats.

On Thursday, April 23, a statewide tornado drill will be held. Focus is on tornadoes and proper sheltering techniques at work, home and play. ďThe National Weather Service will simulate a tornado watch beginning at 9 a.m. Two tornado drills are planned, the first is at 1:45 p.m. and is statewide, with all jurisdictions activating their warning systems,Ē Bill Drager, Paynesville Civil Defense Director, said.

The first drill allows schools, businesses and hospitals to practice their sheltering plans. The second drill is at 6:55 p.m. and is voluntary. The evening drill is designed to allow families an opportunity to practice their home sheltering plan as well as businesses second shifts.

Flash floods cause extensive crop and property damage each year in Minnesota. An average of five flash flood events occur in Minnesota each spring and summer with June being the month of highest activity.

In an average year, tornadoes in the United States claim about 100 lives and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. A severe thunderstorm may spawn a tornado, a violently rotating column of air which descends from a thunderstorm cloud system.

On the average, tornadoes move about 30 miles an hour, however, some move very slowly, while others speed along at 60 miles an hour or more. The typical path of a tornado is about 50 yards wide and a few miles long, but some have cut a swath a mile wide and 300 miles long. The destructive rotating winds of a tornado can exceed 200 miles an hour.

Tornadoes can strike at any time of year. They occur most frequently during April, May and June.

A tornado watch means tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, or both, are possible. Stay tuned to radio and television reports in your area. A tornado warning means tornadoes have been sighted. You should take shelter immediately.

If you see any revolving, funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately to your local police department, sheriffís office or dial 911.

Know the location of designated shelter areas in public facilities such as schools, public buildings, and shopping centers.

Be sure everyone in your household knows in advance where to go and what to do in case of a tornado warning. If you live in a single-family house in a tornado-prime area, reinforce an interior room to use as a shelter, the basement, storm cellar or a closet on the lower level of your house.

When a tornado has been sighted, stay away from open windows, doors and outside walls. Protect your head from falling objects or flying debris. Take cover immediately. Flying pieces of glass could injure you badly or even kill you.

If you are in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to a more substantial structure.

If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine or culvert with your hands shielding your head.

For more information, check out these websites: Division of Emergency Management: www.dps.state.mn.us/ emermgt/index.html and the National Weather Service at www.crh.noaa.gov.

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