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Severe Weather Awareness Week

April 16, 2012
The Daily News

With the wacky weather that has been a topic of conversation this year, it is time to start thinking about the hazards associated with spring and summertime severe weather.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has declared April 15-21 as Severe Weather Awareness Week for the state of Michigan.

Looking from a whole state perspective, Michigan experienced an average year for severe weather in 2011, said Matt Zika, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Marquette.

There were four deaths and 31 injuries in the state Michigan from severe weather. All of the deaths and injuries resulted from either lightning or thunderstorm winds, Zika said.

Severe thunderstorms, flooding, and tornadoes were responsible for over $150 million in damages in 2011, down from $360 million in damages in 2010.

In the Upper Peninsula, there were 75 reports of severe weather in 2011 which was close to the long term average.

There were 15 tornadoes that touched down across the state in 2011, which is very close to the yearly average of 16. Surprisingly, four of the tornadoes actually touched down in the Upper Peninsula.

Typically, the Upper Peninsula averages one tornado per year.

The most significant of the tornadoes touched down early in the morning on August 19 in the village of Ontonagon where it snapped trees and damaged several buildings.

It was only the third confirmed tornado in Ontonagon County history.

Later on that same day, a killer tornado touched down near Wausaukee, Wis. It was the first tornado fatality in northern Wisconsin in over 25 years. That tornado dissipated as it crossed into Menominee County.

Despite the perception that the Upper Peninsula is immune to significant severe weather, the area is still at risk for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hail, floods and lightning.

During Severe Weather Awareness Week in Michigan, the National Weather Service is encouraging residents to review severe weather safety procedures especially since they probably have not been put into action in some time.

Plan ahead.

Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do when severe weather threatens. The best time to prepare for severe weather is before it happens.

Safety experts have issued the following tips:

- Make all family members familiar with your community's severe weather warning system. Listen for the National Weather Service's NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, or local radio, television and cable stations for the latest weather updates. Make sure to have a battery-operated radio to ensure a continuous flow of weather information. Know what to do and where to meet if a warning sounds.

- Designate a family shelter. In a home, the basement offers the greatest safety. In homes without basements, seek a small room such as a closet or bathroom in the centermost portion of your home.

- Avoid doors and windows. Seek shelter under something sturdy such as a staircase, workbench, furniture or temporary shelter space with overhead protection. If you are in a mobile home, prearrange a shelter in a permanent structure.

- Prepare a severe storm and disaster safety kit for your shelter area. It should include basics such as:

* Portable battery-powered radio.

* Flashlights and lanterns and spare batteries for each.

* Basic tool kit.

* First-aid kit.

* Emergency cooking equipment and canned or boxed food you don't have to refrigerate or cook.

* Three-day supply of bottled water (one gallon per person per day).

* Gloves.

* Prescription medications.

* Credit cards and cash.

* Extra car and house keys.

* Important documents.

* Annually updated photo or video recording of each room for your homeowner's insurance coverage.

* Emergency numbers.

* Blankets, sleeping bags or other items also can protect against flying debris, which causes most injuries and deaths.

- If you are in a trailer or mobile home, seek other shelter immediately, like a ditch. If there is no time, use the bathtub. Homes with tie-downs provide some protection, but because of their light construction, they are vulnerable to high winds and flying debris.

- Make a habit of removing items that can become flying debris from your yard if a tornado watch is announced.

If you are in a car when a tornado is imminent, don't try to outrun it.

Many are killed or injured by remaining in their vehicles, say weather officials. Leave your vehicle and find the best available shelter. Ditches, culverts and under freeway overpass steel superstructures may provide limited protection.

On average, lightning kills more people than tornadoes each year, according to the National Weather Service.

If you are caught in the open in a thunderstorm:

- Move indoors or into a hardtop car. Stay away from towers, fences, telephone poles and powerlines or other structures that might be struck. Don't touch metal. On a boat or in the water, get to land immediately.

- If there is no shelter, find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles but not in an area subject to floods. In the woods, find shelter under the shortest trees. If your skin tingles or hair stands on end, don't lie down. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feel to limit ground contact. Place your hands over your ears and lower your head to make yourself the smallest target possible.



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