Schools, businesses, families, and individuals have two opportunities to test their emergency plans during statewide tornado drills on Thursday.
The drills are part of the annual spring severe weather campaign to encourage everyone in Wisconsin to be ready for possible tornadoes and severe weather.
This week is Wisconsin’s Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week. Wisconsin Emergency Management, the National Weather Service and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association have once again teamed up to sponsor the statewide tornado drills scheduled for Thursday.
On Thursday, a mock tornado watch will be issued at 1 p.m., followed by a statewide mock tornado warning at 1:45 p.m. Many radio and TV stations across the state will issue the test tornado warnings. In addition, mock alerts will be issued on NOAA Weather Radios and many communities will sound their tornado sirens to test their emergency severe weather plans.
Later, a mock tornado warning will be issued at 6:45 p.m. to give families and second shift workers a chance to practice their emergency plans.
The mock tornado watch and warning will not activate the Wireless Emergency Alert on cellphones. During actual tornado warnings your phone will alert you to the danger in your area.
According to the NWS, Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually. Last year, there were 16 tornado touchdowns in the state. All of the tornadoes were either an EF0 or EF1. However, it’s not a question of whether Wisconsin will have a violent storm, it’s a matter of when.
The tornado drill will take place even if the sky is cloudy, dark and or rainy. If actual severe storms are expected in the state on Thursday, the tornado drills will be postponed until Friday at the same times. If severe storms are possible Friday, the drills will be cancelled.
Any changes will be issued to local media as well as posted on the ReadyWisconsin website at http://readywisconsin.wi.gov. Updates will also be posted on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ReadyWisconsin), Twitter (www.twitter.com/ReadyWisconsin), and Instagram (www.instagram.com/ReadyWisconsin).
Watch vs. warning: A tornado watch means that tornadoes are possible and you should be monitoring the situation via a NOAA Weather Radio, your local television stations, or your cell phone which will send you a Wireless Emergency Alert. A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has been spotted either on radar or visually by spotters on the ground. Take shelter immediately.
The signs of a tornado: The sky may have a dark green or black color to it. Also watch for any type of hail, any large dark cloud that sits lower than the others, or a loud roar similar to a freight train.
How a tornado works: Tornadoes can come from any direction but they typically move from the southwest to the northeast. Tornadoes are transparent at first and may not be visible until they start to pick up debris. Tornadoes generally move forward at about 70 miles an hour, or about a mile a minute.
After a tornado: Check for injuries and apply first aid if necessary. Only call 911 if it is an emergency. For example, if you hear a gas leak, get everyone out of the area immediately and call 911. Don’t go into buildings that are damaged. The risk of collapse. Never light a candle to examine buildings, always use a flashlight. Wear long sleeves, pants, gloves and boots or sturdy shoes when looking through debris. Nails and glass are sure to be everywhere. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/crh/?n=2013_ibw_info
Where to go in a warning
• In a home or building, avoid windows. Move to a basement, and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. If a basement is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and cover yourself with towels, blankets or pillows. If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk or counter. Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm. Wearing a bike helmet will help protect your head.
• If outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If you cannot get to shelter, stay in your vehicle with the seatbelt on and place your head below the windows. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.
• Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home and go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.
• At school, go to the interior hall or room. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.