The week of April 13-17, 2020 is designated Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week.  Severe Weather Awareness Week is a public education campaign promoted by the National Weather Service, Minnesota Department of Public Safety and local Emergency Management Agencies.  Each day of the week features a different weather hazard, and two statewide tornado drills will be conducted on Thursday, April 16th.

    Weather Alerts and Warnings are Monday’s topic.  Several different types of watches and warnings may be issued for an area.  Remember that watches mean that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather or tornadoes, and warnings mean that severe weather or tornadoes are occurring, likely to occur, or are imminent.  Advisories and special weather statements may come from the National Weather Service for storms that will impact an area but don’t quite meet warning criteria.  Thunderstorms are considered severe when they have one-inch hail or winds higher than 58mph.

    Severe weather, including hail and lightning are covered on Tuesday.  Hail develops during thunderstorms when a strong updraft is featured, especially in super cell thunderstorms.  Hail causes nearly a billion dollars in damage annually and can range from pea size to over the size of softballs.  Lightning kills around 100 people each year, more than tornadoes.  If you are outdoors and encounter lightning, remember the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”  Lightning can strike ten miles from a storm and can strike even when it isn’t raining.

    Wednesday’s topic is flooding.  Flooding kills approximately 200 people, and in Minnesota floods kill more people than other weather events.  Flooding deaths occur at night 75% of the time, and of those deaths half died in vehicles.  As little as six inches of rapidly flowing water can knock you off your feet.  Never drive through flooded roadways, a foot of water will float most vehicles.  Turn around, don’t drown!

    Minnesota’s state-wide tornado drill will take place on Thursday.  Outdoor warning sirens and NOAA Weather Radios across the state will be sounded at 1:45PM and 6:45PM.  The two drills are intended to allow workplaces and schools an opportunity to test their severe weather plans.  The second drill is to allow second shift workers and families at home an opportunity to test their plans.  In accordance with the Association of Minnesota Emergency Manager’s best practice guidelines, outdoor warning sirens in Polk County are used for tornadoes and intense thunderstorms with expected winds in excess of 70mph.  There is never an “all clear” activation for sirens.  According to the National Weather Service, Minnesota experiences an average of 40 tornadoes per year. In 2012, 37 twisters touched down. A record was set in 2010 with 104 tornadoes across the state.  Understanding this threat and knowing what to do when a tornado is approaching can save lives.  

    So don't forget! The statewide tornado drills are Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 1:45 P.M. and 6:45 P.M.  Please take this opportunity to review emergency plans and procedures, and conduct emergency drills at work and at home.

    Friday is dedicated to heat related emergencies.  During the summer months, even here in Minnesota, temperatures can soar to near or over 100 degrees.  Combined with high humidity, these temperatures can create dangerous conditions.  

    To avoid heat related ailments, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest time of day, check on the elderly, wear light weight loose clothing, and never leave children or pets in vehicles.  Even on warm days, vehicles act like a greenhouse and temperatures can rise to lethal levels in minutes.

    Specific information about these topics, including factsheets, checklists, data and other resources, is provided on the HSEM Weather Safety  and National Weather Service, Chanhassen websites. Contact HSEM for comments, questions or support:  ready.minnesota@state.mn.us