(TNS) - Michigan's annual Severe Weather Awareness Week is taking place this week; with the statewide tornado drill scheduled for today.
This campaign aims to alert and remind Michigan residents about the risks for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms as spring begins. On average, Michigan has 15 tornadoes per year. Monroe County is among the list of counties where tornadoes happen; with over 30 tornadoes noted since record keeping began in 1950.
The average lead time for a tornado warning is 10 to 15 minutes and winds can reach over 200 mph, which is why Michigan residents are encouraged to prepare and make a plan before a tornado strikes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that the safest place to seek shelter during a tornado is a specially-constructed safe room, basement, storm cellar or a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building. "Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls," FEMA says.
There are outdoor sirens in much of Monroe County; but they were designed to be heard by people who are outdoors. Those sirens will not be sounded this week with the statewide tornado drill; the normal testing schedule is 10 a.m. last Wednesday of the month and county officials keep to that schedule.
Area television and radio stations receive and broadcast severe weather emergency messages from local authorities.
In addition, the Monroe County Emergency Management Division also runs the Monroe County Alert Notification System, which a text, phone and email service where residents can sign up for alerts. If you are not signed up, you can do so at https://www.co.monroe.mi.us/officials_and_departments/departments/emergency_management/mcans.php.
The key phrases to watch for in emergency weather bulletins include:
Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Watch the sky and pay attention to weather alert services such as NOAA Weather Radio and weather mobile apps.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch: This is a watch in which the forecast includes strong or violent tornadoes. This phrase has been used only once in Monroe County since it was introduced.
Tornado Emergency: This is a tornado warning in which a significant tornado is happening. This phrase has not been used in Monroe County since it was introduced; the tornadoes in recent years have not met the severity level.
The National Weather Service's annual Severe Weather Spotter classes are taking place in online format this year. The next one is March 31; classes are scheduled through May 25. The signup links are at National Weather Service-Detroit's website at https://www.weather.gov/dtx.
For additional information, go to the State of Michigan's Ready MI website https://www.michigan.gov/miready or the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready website at https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes.
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