Weather Forecast


Awareness week, drills draw attention to severe weather season

This file photo taken from the intersection of Robbins Avenue Southwest and South First Street in Willmar shows the EF-3 tornado that struck the area last summer as it moves south of the city. The tornado damaged numerous buildings and businesses in town and destroyed a handful of local rural residences. Courtesy photo

WILLMAR -- When the sirens blare Thursday, do one thing: Plan where you'll go for shelter when the need is real.

That's the message that emergency planners in the area are working to get out as most of Minnesota observes Severe Weather Awareness Week, according to Don Ericson, emergency management director in Kandiyohi County.

Ericson said that sirens will sound in Kandiyohi County twice on Thursday. The 1:45 p.m. sirens are meant to remind people to plan where they will go for safety when they are in the middle of their daily routine, whether that is at work or school.

The sirens will sound again at 6:55 p.m. They are intended for people who are home and with their families. This is a very important time to teach children in a household where they should head for shelter. The ability to warn people of the impending arrival of severe weather has never been better, thanks to radar, trained weather observers and a coordinated early warning system.

But Ericson said emergency personnel can do no more than sound the alarms and come to people's aid once the weather has passed.

It's up to people to have their own safety plan in place when the alerts are sounded, and to follow through on them.

Ericson pointed out that there are residents south of Willmar who owe their lives to taking shelter when the alerts were sounded on July ll. The July 11 tornado carved a long path of destruction, but no lives were lost.

Ericson said we were fortunate, however. There were some who ignored the warnings to grab cameras and capture images of the severe weather.

A much safer plan is to take shelter in basements or other fully enclosed areas away from windows. There is no better time than Thursday to look around and decide where that safe place is.

ST. PAUL -- Severe Weather Awareness Week, which runs through Friday, is designed to promote the planning that saves lives when weather sirens sound.

Statewide tornado drills are scheduled Thursday.

"Severe weather events are not entirely predictable, and that's why it's essential to plan," says Todd Krause of the National Weather Service in a news release. "At home or out-and-about, you must know how to react, because that siren may be the only warning you get."

According to the National Weather Service, every Minnesota county has experienced tornadoes in the last 56 years.

Severe Weather Awareness Week is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service.

The Web site -- -- provides details on daily weather topics, links to information for families and businesses, statistics, survival instructions, and historical facts and photos. Most information is available in languages other than English, and links provide access to other resources.