Fort McCoy News April 10, 2015

Focus on tornadoes, severe weather April 13-17

April 13-17 is Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

During this week, facility managers, safety officers, and Families in the Fort McCoy community are asked to review the procedures to be implemented when severe weather strikes to ensure they are prepared.

Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually. In 2014, 22 tornadoes were reported in Wisconsin by the National Weather Service (NWS). Eighteen of those tornadoes occurred in June.

The strongest tornado in 2014 occurred June 17 when an EF 3 tornado hit Verona in Dane County, according to the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management (WDEM). At least 30 homes were damaged, as well as Country View Elementary School. The tornado traveled about a mile, had wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph, and was on the ground for several minutes.

An EF 2 also touched down June 17 in Platteville in Grant County. Several homes and businesses were damaged, including the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.

A statewide tornado drill is planned Thursday, April 16.

"Due to operational commitments, we will not be sounding the sirens here on the installation during the statewide drill," said Emergency Management Specialist Jeff Kirkey of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. "However, as always, we encourage everyone to remain alert and vigilant to the weather notices, warnings, and watches that come with severe weather."

At 1 p.m. April 16, NWS will issue a statewide mock tornado watch and, at 1:45 p.m., a statewide mock tornado warning, according to WDEM. Many radio and TV stations will participate in the drill. In addition, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios, also known as emergency weather radios, will issue alert messages.

If actual severe storms are expected in the state April 16, the Wisconsin tornado drill will be postponed until Friday, April 17, with the same times.

If severe storms are possible April 17, the drill will be canceled. Any changes will be issued to local media and posted on the ReadyWisconsin website (http://readywisconsin.wi.gov), Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Safety Specialist Don Vender of the Installation Safety Office (ISO) said the awareness week is a great time for Fort McCoy community members to take time to make a severe-weather plan. "This is especially important in the case of a tornado — you must have a plan and know where to go," Vender said.

In case of a tornado, Vender recommended a few tips:

• When seeking shelter from a tornado, the best place is an underground shelter. If one is not available, go into a basement or the lowest floor of your home or work area. This could be an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.

• Stay away from all windows and protect your body with whatever is available.

• If outside and no shelter is available, find the lowest ground possible.

Vender said people also should know how to stay safe during lightning strikes. NWS data shows lightning strikes 25 million times a year in the U.S.

"On average each year, there are 51 fatalities and hundreds are injured from lightning strikes," Vender said.

"Lightning can strike from as far as 10 miles from where there's rainfall taking place."

When lightning is spotted, some tips to stay safe include:

• Seek shelter indoors away from windows, and avoid using electrical equipment or corded phones.

• Avoid contact with metal, especially near a bathtub or shower.

• If in a hardtop vehicle, stay in the vehicle and close the windows.

• Wait 30 minutes from the last thunder clap before venturing outside.

For more information about Wisconsin's observance of Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week as well as other safety tips, go online to http://readywisconsin.wi.gov. For more information about severe-weather safety, call the ISO at 608-388-3403.

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   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office; Installation Safety Office; and the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security.)