Prepare for severe weather season
MORRIS – The severe weather season has made a swift and, unfortunately, destructive return to the skies over western Minnesota already this early spring.
A rare late March tornado hit northern portions of Yellow Medicine County on March 31, which heavily damaged farm buildings and tree groves near the town of St. Leo. The severe weather season ended last year on Oct. 11, 2013 with a damaging EF-1 tornado just east of Wheaton in rural Traverse County, reminding us that our local severe weather season can begin in the very early spring and last well into the late fall.
Stevens County had tornados, hail, wind in 2013 season
Stevens County had more than its fair share of dangerous severe weather last year with two confirmed EF-0 tornadoes within the county. One of the tornadoes was sighted briefly touching down northeast of Alberta in Pepperton Township, while the second reached the ground northeast of Hancock in Hodges Township in the early evening on Aug. 6, 2013.
The local area also encountered two damaging hailstorms and one destructive high wind episode. During the hailstorm on Aug. 6, 2013, hail up to the size of softballs was found northwest of Morris. An episode of high winds flipped train cars off the rails and caused widespread tree damage near Chokio on the evening of June 20, 2013. Destructive straight line winds were measured in excess of 70 miles per hour.
Information is critical during storm season
With Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week 2014 upon us, now is a great time to put together a personal and family severe weather safety action plan for that day when storms come rolling in.
One of the best ways to stay safe is to have as much information as possible ahead of expected storms. This information is available over the internet at a host of different websites aimed at providing critical severe weather data well ahead of the storm including the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/ and the NWS Forecast Office out of the Twin Cities at www.weather.gov/mpx/. Severe weather information is available up to a week in advance.
These websites provide easy to understand graphics and information for you to use to stay safe and informed, well before, during and after a storm has passed.
Another great local online resource for learning how stay safe is the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website at www.dps.mn.gov. This site also includes information about how to make your own severe weather safety plan and emergency disaster preparedness kit.
Build a preparedness kit
Having a home emergency disaster preparedness kit for when life threatening severe weather strikes in tandem with an action plan are the two most critical things in surviving the types of natural disasters that commonly occur here in Stevens County.
To build a simple home emergency disaster preparedness kit, one should start out with a sealable plastic tote tub to store the contents and keep them ready and dry.
The kit should at minimum include the following items that would help save your life or improve your odds of survival should a disaster occur.
a battery powered flashlight
a battery powered AM/FM/weather radio
bottled water for up to three days
non-perishable food items such as crackers or granola bars or nuts
small plastic trash bags and tissue papers
basic tools such as a hammer and a wrench to shut off house utilities.
You may even want to include a filtered face mask for dust or airborne debris as well as a sturdy pair of shoes and gloves should the situation at hand includes severe ground debris.
County offers new siren protocol
Stevens County will be sounding the outdoor warning sirens when severe storms of life threatening criteria impact the county.
This includes all tornado warnings as well as severe thunderstorm warnings when the National Weather Service or a trained weather spotter has measured a damaging wind gust of 70 miles per hour or greater in Stevens County.
In addition to this new local siren activation protocol, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office and local fire departments have been actively involved this year in advanced severe storm spotter trainings to give them the latest knowledge and tools to effectively and accurately keep watch over the skies of Stevens County.
With the severe weather season already off to an active start, the long range indications for severe weather going into late spring and early summer are leaning toward a potentially busy period for Minnesota and the upper Midwest; a this time, a cooler than normal airmass has a grip on the region, while it battles against a warm and moist airmass making a comeback from the south.
Make a plan. Make a kit. Stay informed. And be one step ahead of the storm this severe weather season!
Nick Elms is a local news and weather contributor.