April 9-13 has been designated as Severe Weather Awareness Week this year across the state of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Throughout the week we will be detailing safety tips and what to do in the event of severe weather.
The Stormtracker 19 Weather Team kicks off the Severe Weather Awareness Week discussion talking about tornado safety and the importance of the tornado drills that are slated for later this week.
Severe Weather Awareness Week is a time to prepare your emergency kits and get a plan in place for when the weather goes downhill. It's a time when going through the motions of what you should do in the event of a tornado is important to do before the warning sirens begin to ring.
The ominous sound and the dark look to the sky are warning signs enough that severe weather is brewing, but the atmospheric dynamics have to be just right. Todd Shea, the warning coordination meteorologist with the La Crosse National Weather Service says, "We look for those environments where it's going to favor one of these tornadoes to spin up, or a quick tornado to form along a line of storms; those kind of scenarios. Again, a lot has to come together. It's one thing to get a thunderstorm, but then to get a severe thunderstorm, and then you take it to another level with the right wind flow. All that has to come together to get a tornado."
Wisconsin recorded 23 tornado touchdowns across the state last year with the Chetek tornado, an EF-3, the worst of the bunch. It was a tornado event that was aligned with Mother Nature's schedule. Todd adds, "Most of our tornadoes occur during the months of May and June. June, ultimately being the peak tornado season in the area, but we can see them before that and certainly later in the summer."
The variability of tornadic events require that you are prepared at all times. Two tornado drills this week will not only allow schools and students to prepare, but also everyone at home. Keith Butler, the emergency management coordinator for La Crosse county times the drills out by saying, "One during the daytime about 1:30/1:45pm in the afternoon. Then again in the evening, so people who are working second shift, or people who are home with their families during the evening can also practice, what would you do if the tornado alert comes through in the evening when you're likely to be at home."
The next question then becomes, where in your house in the safest place to hunker down during a tornado? Shea, with the National Weather Service says, "Ultimately, the best choice is to get to a basement or get under ground. Get under something sturdy to protect you in case your home is actually struck by a tornado. But if you don't have that option available, then getting to an interior area; an interior bathroom, an interior closet. Basically, putting as many walls between you and the storm as possible on the lowest level is a good rule of thumb."
Lightning storms can be striking and tornadoes can twist you up in fear, but the bottom line is to have a plan ready to go when those sirens sound. Weather satellites have improved over the last several years allowing meteorologists to forecast and time the severe weather better.
You can track the storms yourself with our WXOW Stormtracker 19 Weather App. The app is another means of staying safe even if the power goes out this severe weather season.
Continuing this week, the Stormtracker 19 Weather Team will detail safety tips and precautions you should take when it comes to flash flooding and severe thunderstorms here in the Coulee Region.