Statewide tornado drill planned today

Statewide tornado drill planned today

From UST Public Safety and Parking Services

It's Severe Weather Awareness Week, and the UST Public Safety and Parking Services department reminds the St. Thomas community that the annual statewide tornado drill is planned today, April 20. The drill is an opportunity to review and test spring and summer severe-weather safety procedures.

Here's what happens today:

The National Weather Service will simulate a tornado watch beginning at 9 a.m. Two simulated tornado warnings are planned. The first will take place at 1:45 p.m. when all jurisdictions will activate their warning systems. It allows schools, businesses and hospitals to practice their sheltering plans. At 6:55 p.m., a second simulated warning in all metro-area counties and many others throughout the state will give families and second-shift workers a similar opportunity.

Please review this information about tornado watches and warnings:

Tornado watch: The National Weather Service issues a tornado watch when weather conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. Continue with your normal activities, but pay special attention to the latest weather conditions, monitor radio and television weather reports and be prepared to move to a shelter if a tornado occurs.

Tornado warning: The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning when a tornado is reported or is imminent. Seek shelter immediately if you are in or near the path of the storm. Warnings are issued via radio and television by county and city names. Make sure you know the name of the county where you are and the cities that surround you.

How to receive severe weather warnings: Warnings are disseminated swiftly using hotlines and many other means of communication, including radio, television and the Internet. The development of technology has allowed people to receive warnings via cell phone, pagers and other methods. Spotters provide important storm reports, and emergency officials carry out the plans that emergency managers have developed. Updates are issued frequently until immediate danger has passed.

Outdoor sirens are used by many cities and counties to alert citizens to severe weather, and the National Weather Service also alerts media outlets to severe weather information so that it can be passed along to you.

The tone-alert feature of NOAA Weather Radio also activates specially designed radios to sound an alarm that alerts you to dangerous weather. These radios can be purchased at most stores that sell electronic equipment. If you purchase one, make sure it has a battery backup.

The Public Safety and Parking Services department encourages offices to coordinate monitoring of weather warnings through NOAA Weather Radio and weather Internet sites.

Seeking shelter: In an apartment, school or office building, move to the innermost room on the lowest level or to a predesignated shelter area. Stay away from windows. In a hallway, crouch down and protect your head from flying debris. Avoid areas with glass and large roof expansions.

At home, go to the basement, if possible. Get under a table, work bench or some other sturdy furniture to avoid falling debris. A stairwell also is a good place to seek shelter during a tornado. If you cannot get to a basement, go to a small, interior room on the lowest floor. Closets, bathrooms and interior walls afford the best protection in most cases. Or, try to hide under a bed. Get under something sturdy or cover yourself with blankets. Stay away from windows.

In a mobile home, car, truck or other vehicle, abandon these as quickly as possible. Seek a sturdy shelter or permanent structure. Remember that many deaths occur when people try to drive away in a vehicle but get caught in deadly winds. Avoid bridges since they act like wind tunnels.

Minnesota tornado statistics: Last year 60 tornadoes were reported in Minnesota, making 2005 the second-most prolific year for tornadoes, trailing only 2001, which had 74 tornadoes. Two tornadoes were rated F3 on the Tornado Intensity Scale, one in southeast Minnesota along the Iowa border, and another near the border with North Dakota and Manitoba. No fatalities or injuries were reported.

Questions? If you have questions about St. Thomas' severe weather procedures, please call Public Safety and Parking Services, (651) 962-5000.