Know the drill when tornadoes threaten to strike

In a week that started out with snow flurries, it’s a little difficult to think about tornado season being close at hand.

Yet on Wednesday, Michigan will have a statewide tornado drill as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week that extends through Saturday.

The drill is set for noon Central time. While voluntary, the state encourages everyone — businesses, organizations, families and individuals — to take the opportunity to review what should be done when the National Weather Service raises a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning.

“Tornadoes can develop rapidly, with little or no warning,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police. “Due to their unpredictable nature, we must be ready well in advance. We’re asking residents and businesses to take a few extra steps during the week to ensure they’re prepared.”

It was only a week ago that thunderstorms, winds and hail wrecked havoc on the region, dropping trees and utility lines that left parts of the Upper Peninsula without power for days. So the region knows too well how quickly the weather can turn treacherous.

The average lead time for tornadoes to develop is 10 to 15 minutes, which means citizens need to be ready to react quickly when a warning is issued.

To be ready for a tornado, experts recommend:

— Identify the lowest place to take cover during a tornado. If a basement does not exist, find an interior hallway away from windows, doors, and outside walls.

— Go under something sturdy, such as a workbench or stairwell, when taking shelter in the basement or designated spot.

— Conduct regular tornado drills. Make sure each household member knows where to go and what to do in the event of a tornado.

— Stay tuned to commercial radio or television broadcasts for news on changing weather conditions or approaching storms.

— Know the difference: a Tornado Watch means conditions exist for a tornado to develop; a Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

— Be aware of the following signs that can indicate an approaching tornado: Dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud; a loud roar, similar to a freight train

— Develop a 72-hour emergency supply kit with essential items such as a three-day supply of water and food, a NOAA Weather Radio, important family documents and items that satisfy unique family needs.

If a real severe weather event develops Wednesday, the statewide tornado drill will be postponed to noon Thursday.

For more information about being safe before, during and after a tornado in Michigan, follow MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS or go online to www.michigan.gov/miready. Emergency preparedness information also is available at www.ready.gov/tornadoes.

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