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Severe Weather and Tornado Awareness Week brings changes in 2021

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 4:13 PM CDT|Updated: 15 hours ago
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The annual Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin starts Monday, April 12, and officials are encouraging everyone to prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.

Why? Because Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes each year. Last year, the state saw 20 tornadoes. The year before, the NWS confirmed 28 tornadoes touched down. And unlike tornado drills, they don’t follow a schedule.

On Thursday, April 15, Wisconsin will conduct two statewide tornado drills at 1:45 and 6:45 P.M. so that schools and businesses can practice their emergency plans in the afternoon and families can practice at home in the evening.

Unlike previous years, these mock tornado drills won’t trigger the Emergency Alert System. As a result, they won’t sound an alarm on NOAA weather radios, and TV and radio stations may not display warning messages. Also, some communities may “opt out” and test their community sirens on their regular schedules. Instead, this year, the alerts will go out on ReadyWisconsin’s social media, and schools, businesses and families are encouraged to make note of the times on their calendars to rehearse for an emergency.

(Update: Brown and Outagamie counties confirmed their sirens will go off Thursday at 1:45 and 6:45 P.M. If severe weather is expected, the drills will be pushed back to Friday, April 16.)

ReadyWisconsin.gov encourages people to have apps and settings on their mobile device to warn them of impending severe weather and have a NOAA weather radio in their home. Some communities are doing away with outdoor sirens, citing the prevalence of smartphones and wireless alerts and the cost of upkeep of the sirens. Make sure your phone has Wireless Emergency Alerts enabled (it’s usually found in the Settings, or check with your mobile provider).

ReadyWisconsin encourages you to check the weather forecast daily for a heads-up on the potential for bad weather, especially since it’s a severe weather season. You can get weather information anytime you want with our First Alert Weather 24/7 channel on WBAY-TV 2.2 (check your cable listings) and online at https://www.wbay.com/livestream2, as well as the WBAY First Alert Weather app available on the Apple App Store for iPhones and iPads and Google Play for Android smartphones and tablets.

What to do in case of a tornado:

- Move to a designated shelter, such as a basement, and get under a sturdy table or the stairs

- If a basement isn't available, move to a small interior room on the lowest floor and cover yourself with anything close at hand, such as towels, blankets, or pillows. If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk or counter, and put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.

- Stay away from windows.

- Anyone in mobile homes should leave the building and go to the designated storm shelter, or the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building.

- If you're outdoors, find shelter in a sturdy building. If you're unable to quickly walk to the shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle up, and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If you run into flying debris while driving, you should pull over and park.

-If you're out and forced to pull over and park, there are two options as a last resort. You can either stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on and place your head below the windows, or, if you can safely get noticeable lower than the road, get out of the vehicle and lie in the area, covering your head with your hands.

- Do NOT seek shelter under an overpass -- despite of what you might’ve seen in movies.

Officials also recommend having a disaster plan for your family, as disaster can strike at any time.

Plan details should include how will family members find each other, if you are separated, as well as what you would do if basic services -- such as water, gas, electricity, and phone -- were cut off.

Officials say a disaster may force you or your family to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home.

Items to include in a disaster kit:

- A 3-day supply of water and food that won’t spoil

- One change of clothing per person

- One blanket or sleeping bag per person

- A first aid kit, including prescription medicines

- A battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio

- Emergency tools, including a portable radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries

- Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members

- Don’t forget about your pets and their food and medicine for other ideas on what supplies to use in your kit.

Be prepared for other severe weather conditions