Tornado season is upon us: What you need to know

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Gazette staff
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

JANESVILLE--The annual statewide tornado drill Thursday might be a good time to pause and think about what to do in the event of severe weather.

Many Midwesterners go their whole lives without seeing a tornado, but Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes a year. The state recorded 16 last year.

Wisconsin's peak tornado season is April to August, but a tornado can occur any time of year.

The drill will start at 1 p.m. Thursday, when the National Weather Service will issue a statewide mock tornado watch. 

A tornado watch means that tornadoes are possible, and residents should be alert for approaching storms.

A mock tornado warning will be issued at 1:45 p.m. Rock County's sirens will sound for one to two minutes.

If residents notice the siren in their area is not working, they should contact the Rock County Sheriff's Office Emergency Management Bureau at 608-758-8440. 

Television viewers and radio station listeners will hear a message about the test at 1:45 p.m. Weather radios will produce alerts for both the mock tornado watch and the mock tornado drill. 

If the weather radio alarm does not go off, owners should check their radio's programming and the quality of reception.

The drill will not activate an emergency notification on cellphones. But during actual tornado warnings, cellphones will give alerts.

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 drill will be postponed until Friday.

If severe storms are possible Friday, the drill will be cancelled.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on weather radar. In the event of a real tornado warning, sirens would sound steadily for three to five minutes, and residents are asked to tune in a local radio station or weather radios for information and instructions.

People should not call the Rock County 911 Communications Center or local radio stations for weather information.

Information about how to prepare for severe weather can be found at ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov.  Information on the different types of severe weather such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding is available at the following websites:

-- www.co.rock.wi.us/law-enforcement/emergency-management

-- weather.gov

-- ready.gov/severe-weather

-- listo.gov (Spanish)

Residents, schools, businesses and Rock County organizations can contact the Rock County Sheriff's Office at 608-758-8440 for literature and presentation requests regarding emergency management, preparedness and severe weather. 

During a real tornado warning, residents should move to a safe place immediately.

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 caught outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If that is not possible, get into a vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.

The authorities recommend two steps of last resort:

-- Stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on and place your head below the windows.

-- If you can safely get noticeably lower than the roadway, exit the vehicle and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.

Anyone in a mobile home should go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.

Last updated: 4:55 pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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