Beltrami County Participating in Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week
The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management would like to remind our citizens this week is Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week. Each day of the week has a specific hazard topic to allow our citizens to familiarize themselves of the potential impacts the severe and summer weather seasons pose in the northland. Beltrami County will also be participating in two tornado drills on Thursday, April 19th, 2012. Severe Weather Awareness Week is promoted by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Monday, April 16th’s hazard topic is Thunderstorms, Hail, Straight-line Winds, and Lightning. Each spring and summer as warmer weather ushers into the state the threat of thunderstorms and associated weather impacts increase. Thunderstorms are the result of several atmospheric conditions clashing together and develop as warm humid air rises and cooler air and precipitation falls towards the surface of the earth. In certain cases these storms can become very violent and produce a variety of weather phenomenons including hail, lightning, straight-line winds, tornadoes, and torrential rains. Hail causes over 1.5 billion dollars in damage annually in the United States. Lightning strikes can kill instantly as well as spark structural fires or wildfires in dry conditions. Thunderstorms can also spawn extreme wind events and even tornadoes.
Tuesday, April 17th’s hazard is Severe Weather Warnings and the Emergency Alert System. Anyone that has monitored a weather radio or commercial radio has heard the Emergency Alert System interrupt transmissions during severe weather. Normally proceeded by a screeching beep followed by a tone, the EAS is designed to cut into broadcasts in a timely manner to relay important emergency information, including severe weather announcements. There are a number of emergency weather messages that are broadcast over the EAS, including Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings as well as Tornado Watches and Warnings. Remember the difference between Watches and Warnings… Watches mean conditions are favorable for the development of the specified hazard, and warnings mean it is occurring or immanent.
Wednesday, April 18th’s hazard is Floods and Flash Flooding. Floods are the result of excess precipitation causing waterways to rise over their normal levels. Obstructions in river flow can also cause rising waters and floods. Flash floods are particularly dangerous because of their rapid development. Normally the result of torrential or prolonged heavy rainfall, flash floods can develop with very little warning. Never drive through flooded roadways. As little as six inches of flowing water can sweep you off your feet, and as little as a foot of flowing water can float your vehicle. Many people are killed each year by driving through flooded roadways; remember the saying, “TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN!”
Thursday, April 19th’s hazard is Tornadoes as well as Tornado Drill Day. Outdoor warning sirens will be sounded in Beltrami County twice on this day. The first simulated tornado warning will take place at 1:45pm. A second simulated tornado warning will take place at 6:55pm. The second drill is intended to allow second shift workers as well as families at home to practice their tornado procedures. If there is a threat for severe weather during the tornado drills, the outdoor warning sirens will NOT be sounded to avoid confusion of possible legitimate warnings. If you hear sirens during severe weather, remember it does not necessarily mean a tornado is bearing down on you; sirens are also sounded for intense thunderstorm winds in excess of 70mph as they can cause damage comparable to tornadoes. The 911 emergency line is intended to report threats to life or property, do not use 911 to receive weather information. The timeliest weather information can be received through a NOAA All Hazards Radio or local commercial radio stations broadcasting EAS information.
Friday, April 20th’s hazard is Heat Waves. Heat waves are prolonged periods of extreme temperatures and/or a combination of high heat indices caused by high humidity. Nearly 40 Minnesotans have been killed in the last 12 years caused by high heat related ailments. Familiarize yourself with recognizing heat related injuries and how to treat them. In the event of a heat wave, hydrate regularly with non-alcoholic beverages (water works good) and avoid vigorous activity outdoors. Try to arrange your schedule to be outdoors in the early morning or late evening. Last year, Minnesota set numerous records for high heat and humidity. Moorhead broke the highest heat index of all time in Minnesota at 134 degrees Fahrenheit last year.
Beltrami County has experienced 29 confirmed tornado events since 1950 and many more straight-line winds events. More recently, during the early morning hours of August 19th, 2011 southern Beltrami County experienced a widespread straight-line wind event with damaging winds cutting a damage path across Bemidji. Especially hard hit was the Nymore Neighborhood where hundreds of trees, utility lines, and utility poles were knocked down and damaged. Isolated structural damage was also documented. This storm also produced ping-pong ball sized hail and flooding rainfall.
Take the time this week to review your response to severe weather. Make a plan and practice that plan.
Assistant Director of Emergency Management
Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office
613 Minnesota Ave NW
Bemidji, MN 56601