Summer thunderstorms on the Northern Plains can quickly develop into severe weather conditions, producing high winds, heavy rainfall, lightning, hail and even tornadoes. Severe weather has the potential to cause injuries and fatalities, significant damage to structures and disruption to communities.
There are simple steps citizens can take to stay safe and protect themselves and their homes when severe weather threatens.
Wilkin County Emergency Management Director Breanna Koval said one of the best things people can do is to just be aware of the weather forecast.
“Check before they go out, check in the morning to get an idea of the evening’s weather forecast,” she said. “A lot of it comes down to just being aware.”
She suggested having an inexpensive battery-powered mobile weather radio, which is a small hand-held device that looks like a walkie-talkie and can be used in vehicles, boats, even golf carts, as well as used in the home.
“It will go off automatically when there’s a severe weather alert,” she explained.
Citizens can also sign up for the CodeRED emergency alert system in either Richland or Wilkin counties, which sends severe weather warnings directly to a person’s phone.
“They can sign up as many phones as they want, and it's free,” she said.
The rapid emergency notification CodeRED warning alerts distribute emergency messages via telephone to targeted areas or the entire county at the rate of 1,000 calls per minute. Customized, pre-recorded emergency messages are delivered directly to homes, business, live individuals and answering machines.
The Minnesota Department of Safety has tips about what to do in the event of a tornado:
• If you’re inside a house with a basement, get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where heavy objects rest on the floor above and don’t go underneath them in case they fall through a weakened floor.
• Inside a house without a basement, stay away from windows, and go to the lowest room, small center room such as a closet or bathroom, under a stairwell or interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands.
• Inside an apartment or dorm on an upper floor, get to the lowest level of the building immediately and move to the most interior space possible away from windows.
• In a mobile home, get out. Even if the home is tied down you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there. If a sturdy, permanent building is within easy running distance, seek shelter there. If there are no other buildings, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head.