Severe Weather Awareness Week overview

by Nickalas Tabbert

You may have heard about the severe weather that struck the Midwest a few days ago.  The higher chance of severe weather during this time of year led to the creation of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota over 25 years ago.

In partnership with the National Weather Service and local governments, this year's awareness week is April 16-20 and will feature a statewide tornado drill Thursday.  Here is a quick look at the second half of the week's topics listed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Wednesday focuses on floods and flash floods.  The site provides tips to reduce the chances of water damage and flooding to your home.

Thursday, April 19 is all about tornado safety.  Simulated tornado watches and warnings will be issued to test statewide warning and communications systems.  The two drills are conducted at 1:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. to allow schools and businesses and then later on second-shift workers to practice their emergency plans.

At 1:00 p.m. Thursday the National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning for Wisconsin and Minnesota.  At 1:45 p.m. the NWS will issue a simulated tornado warning for Minnesota counties – at which point they will test their outdoor warning siren systems.

Then again at 6:55 p.m., the NWS will issue a second tornado warning, though this time it's voluntary for Minnesota counties.  The entire metro area will be participating.

All counties in Minnesota normally participate in the first drill unless actual severe weather is expected, the site said.

Counties and cities own, operate and maintain all local sirens, and set their own policy on how and when to activate them.  There are many different policies for siren activation used by various cities and counties.  Some activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings only while others include severe thunderstorm warnings.

The week will end with education about heat waves, which claim more lives each year than several other weather categories like floods and tornadoes.  Important tips listed on the website include drinking lots of fluids and finding air-conditioned areas.