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Tornado drill set as Michigan marks Severe Weather Week

Though some snow still lingers and substantial ice remains on area lakes, signs of warmer times to come already have appeared in the north with several days of temperatures in the 60s.

It also means chances will rise in coming weeks for dangerous storms as spring advances.

With that in mind, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed this to be Severe Weather Awareness Week in the state.

As part of the week, the Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division encourages residents to participate in a voluntary statewide tornado drill at 1 p.m. Wednesday by using the time to discuss emergency plans when severe weather threatens — rather than actually moving to what usually are tight, enclosed spaces — to maintain social distancing due to COVID-19.

“Tornadoes can happen at any time but are more prevalent in late spring and early summer. It’s important that your household or business has a plan to react quickly,” said Capt. Kevin Sweeney, deputy state director of Emergency Management and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “This year, we are asking that large groups not shelter in place together during the drill but to instead use the opportunity to go over their emergency plans and update them if necessary.”

During the statewide tornado drill, residents will observe or hear alerts on NOAA Weather Radios, TV and radio stations. To learn how local alerts are administrated and which communities are participating, contact the local emergency management agency.

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

To be ready for a tornado:

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

— Know the signs of an approaching tornado: dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark low-lying cloud; and loud roar, like a freight train.

— Develop an emergency preparedness 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.

— 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.

For more information about being safe before, during and after a tornado, follow the MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS or go online to www.michigan.gov/miready.

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