Be prepared for the unexpected when it comes to severe weather events

Severe weather awareness week is a good time to practice 

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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“People need to be prepared for stuff they are probably not prepared for,” said Jeff Jelinski, communications supervisor for the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office. Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 16-20, and residents of Morrison County will be participating in severe weather drills.

Lightning, hail, straight line winds, heat, flash floods and tornados cause extensive damage in Minnesota every year. “Weather can kill if we don’t take the proper precautions,” Jelinski said.

The state of Minnesota has two drills planned. The first will be Thursday at 1:45 p.m. Sirens will be sounded. This drill is designed mostly for wherever people are during the day—home, school or work. The second drill will be the same day at 6:45 p.m. This is designed for people at home in the evening and those working second shifts.

Jelinski wants people to practice with their children. “Know where you are going before trouble happens,” he said. “You must be prepared for the unexpected.”

“Children are our number one priority. We all know we’re supposed to go to our basement or to an interior room without a window. Know where every child is,” he said.

“For those in a community covered by a siren, when you hear it you must take shelter immediately. There is no such thing as an all-clear signal. If you hear the siren a second time — do not delay in finding shelter.”

Jelinski said that every household should have an National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. “They really do work and they work very well,” he said.

Since sirens are designed for people outside with no other warning device, people who are inside should be tuned to their local radio station, television or Internet. “In the computerized world we live in, weather alerts are available almost anywhere. Have the alerts activated on your computer or cell phone,” said Jelinski.

Those who find themselves under a tornado warning and outside anywhere, should lay flat on low ground and protect their head.

When in an office building or facility such as a hospital or nursing home, go to an enclosed windowless area preferably at the center of the building. Stairwells work, but stay out of elevators.

If in a home with a basement, go to the basement away from windows and get under something sturdy such as a built-in workbench or stairwell. Always (if possible) cover themselves with thick padding such as blankets, a mattress or pillows to protect from debris.

If a residence does not have a basement, people should go to the lowest floor of the building to the smallest interior room that does not have a window and cover themselves with padding.

If in a mobile home — get out immediately, even if it’s tied down. It’s safer to be out in the open than in a trailer.

If at school, follow the drills that were practiced.

Jelinski said, “Precipitation over the winter was low and it is so dry now that we have to be on the lookout for wildfires. If you are going to burn, be prepared. Make sure there are no burning restrictions, and get a fire permit.”

Those in a farm community or who spend long periods of time at outside events, you must take care of themselves by drinking plenty of fluids. If someone is getting too much sun, they need to take periodic breaks.

“Unlike last year when we were preparing for heavy spring flooding, this year we need to be watching for torrential rain,” Jelinski said. “A general rule is, if water is washing across the roadway, do not cross. You just don’t know what may be under the water, whether the road has washed out or not. Do not cross a road when water is running over it.”

“You must be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Practice these things with your children. Know where you are going before trouble happens,” he said.

Jelinski said, “We don’t ever want to look for the worst thing to happen, but if we’re prepared it will help us in the event of severe weather or any other type of emergency event.”