NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — April 12-16 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The week serves as a time to re-inform residents about the differences between watches and warnings, a time to make a plan for when severe weather strikes, and a time to make sure you and your family have a way to receive alerts.
Watches and warnings often get mistaken for one another during the severe weather season. If you do mix them up, don’t worry you, are not alone, even Charlie Berens gets them confused.
A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for severe weather. The type of watch will indicate the type of severe weather that is possible. For example, a flood watch, severe thunderstorm watch, and/or a tornado watch.
During a watch, you can continue with your day-to-day routine but keep an eye on the sky and have a plan for when severe weather does strike. Another way to remember a watch is to think of it in baking terms. If baking a cupcake, a cupcake watch would mean you have all the ingredients ready for a cupcake but no finished product.
A warning is issued when severe weather has been reported or is imminent. Once again, the type of warning will indicate the type of severe weather that was reported or is imminent.
During a warning, seek shelter immediately. If you are in your car, try and avoid the severe weather if possible, drive to a sheltered area, or last resort, exit your vehicle, lie flat in a ditch and shield your head with your hands. In baking terms, a cupcake warning would mean the cupcake is complete, it is there, it is happening and ready for you to eat.
Sitting on a porch watching thunderstorms roll in is the Midwest thing to do. But once those storms get closer and become severe get in, get down, and cover up.
Create a plan for where you and your family will go when severe weather strikes. Pick a safe room in your home where everyone will meet. This should be in a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
Educated yourself and family on the county you live in and nearby by cities, so you know if severe weather is impacting you or is close by.
Know what you are going to grab. A flashlight, weather radio, blanket, food, ect. For your electronics make sure they have fresh batteries.
Mark clearly where the first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located. Make sure the first-aid kit is properly stocked with medical supplies. Teach your family how to administer basic first-aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and, in case of an emergency, how to switch off the water, gas, and electricity in your home.
It is also smart to have a plan for when you are not at home. Same planes should be talked about for a cabin, camping, friend’s house, school, and work.
When preparing for severe weather season it’s important to have a way to receive alerts. The most common way to receive an alert is by way of sirens. The National Weather Service does not sound the sirens. Counties and cities own the sirens and decide when to activate them.
Some will sound the sirens for the entire county for only tornado warnings. Others may sound the sirens for the entire county for both severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. While some may sound the sirens for severe thunderstorm warnings with a wind gust of 70-75 mph and or tornado warning. Others may only sound the sirens for portions of the county.
Counties and cities have the ability to sound the sirens if they think severe weather is a threat to the area without a warning from the National Weather Service. If you want to know what they will blow the sirens for in your location, contact your city for more information.
Another way to receive alerts is through the media. Local television and radio stations will be covering the severe weather. For television, this may be through running a crawl at the bottom of the screen or through a live cut-in. On the radio, often this a through a brief interruption in the programming.
You even carry an alert device with you every day in your pocket, it is your cell phone. You can download the KEYC News Now Weather App to inform you of severe weather in your area. Other weather apps will work as well. Sometimes you will even receive a message on your phone if you ping off a cell tower in the area of severe weather.
An NOAA weather radio is a great way to receive alerts. Weather radios allow you to customize your location and the types of alerts you want to be notified of. They are tied in with the National Weather Service, so when an alert is issued for your area a message and tone are sent to your device. It’s a good idea to have an NOAA weather radio around because you can’t always depend on sirens, cell phone alerts, and be able to see the warnings on the television. Plus, they are battery operated so if the power goes out you can still be informed, and they are loud, waking you if severe weather strikes at night.