Last week, AARP Minnesota held a virtual event focusing on staying safe in Minnesota’s severe weather and how to be best prepared. Our host was Karma Kumlin-Diers, Emergency Management Coordinator of 15 years from Ramsey County Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Karma focused our event on the types of severe storms in Minnesota, how to understand the storm warning systems, and steps to take in order to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Storms form when there is moisture in the air, instability in the atmosphere and lifts in the clouds. Storms contain sections, each section brings its own danger. The front end of the storm, or the downdraft, brings rain, hail and damaging winds. The back end of the storm, or the updraft, brings the danger of tornadoes. Lightening can occur anytime within a storm.
Not all clouds we see are accurate in telling us what weather is coming nor what is dangerous – they can be helpful, but we should not rely on them to make our plans.
Have A Plan
It’s important to be knowledgeable about storms themselves but also where to get information about what is coming. Knowing this information can be life saving in severe situations. Find a source that works for you and caters to your location. The National Weather Forecast Office or The National Weather Severe Storm Prediction Center are both reliable sources to help you understand what weather is occurring or will occur as well as potential dangers.
There are differences between storms with a ‘warning’ vs a ‘severe’ storm. Storms with a warning are those with rainfall over 1” /h with persistent rotating clouds. As for severe storms, they have factors such as winds 58 MPH and over, hail over 1” in diameter and tornados/funnel clouds.
There are different levels of danger of storm warnings. Outlooks are broad and bring awareness to potential hazardous weather from local offices. Watches are for potential danger for a large area over a long period of time. Warnings are known danger advising you to take action.
Sirens are also used for severe weather warnings. They are intended for individuals who may be outdoors as severe weather is approaching. Sirens sound for 3 minutes. They never produce an ‘all clear’ siren, so if you hear more than one, it’s warning for multiple weather hazards.
Being aware and having a severe weather plan is crucial. But, when it comes time to take action, having a place to go and supplies on hand are the last steps in staying as safe as possible! Where to go in severe weather depends on your dwelling and the type of severe weather you are dealing with. When dealing with hail or tornadoes, it’s best to take shelter in the lowest point possible, staying away from windows. Learn more about what to do in other situations here.
Severe weather can bring many uncalled for situations. It is always important to have a kit prepared with supplies you may need. Helpful items include:
- Battery/crank radio
- Phone charger
- Extra batteries
- Emergency supplies
- Clothing/sturdy shoes
- First aid/medication
- Personal identification/contacts
- Comfort items
- Hygiene items
- Helmets and other protective items
Severe weather can be a lot to process, but taking the time to be aware, create a plan and understand how to stay safe will keep you and your loved ones best prepared. Join us next time for more virtual events on many other interesting topics, visit the AARP MN Events Page.
If you missed our Severe Weather & Safety Preparedness Virtual Event, no worries! Watch the recording here to get even more information.