Tornado drill set for Severe Weather Week

While we in the Upper Peninsula still have snow and ice very much in place, spring technically arrives at 4:24 p.m. Central time today.

So it’s worth thinking about being prepared for the storms of spring to come, even if for this region they might be weeks away. Especially when it’s been a relatively mild winter, particularly downstate.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared this to be Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, and the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division is calling on residents to participate in a voluntary statewide tornado drill at 1 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.

While tornadoes can be more uncommon in Michigan than other parts of the Midwest, they certainly can pop up in our state. Gaylord proved that on May 20, 2022, state officials noted.

“We are approaching the anniversary of the deadly EF3 tornado that devastated the city of Gaylord last year,” said Capt. Kevin Sweeney, deputy state director of Emergency Management and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “It serves as an important reminder to take steps now to prepare and create a plan to protect your home, your family, and your pets.”

According to The National Weather Service, Michigan averages 15 tornadoes a year.

The state encourages businesses, organizations, families and individuals to engage in this statewide preparedness activity, though taking part is voluntary.

During the drill, residents will observe or hear alerts on TV and radio stations, as well as outdoor sirens in their community if the local emergency management agency is participating. To learn how local alerts are administrated and if your community is 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, state officials stated in a news release.

To be ready for a tornado, the state advises —

— 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 a loud roar, like a freight train.

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

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

— Identify a safe place in the home for household members and pets to gather during a tornado.

— Make sure everyone understands the tornado warning system in your area.

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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