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Keep an eye to the sky

This is a photo of the Willow, Michigan tornado near Detroit in June, 2010.

April showers might bring May flowers, but they are also a sign that another severe weather season is here. Residents should remember to keep an eye to the sky when attending outdoor events.

“With hundreds of fun outdoor activities each year throughout Michigan, it is important to know what do if you are outside and severe weather strikes,” said Rich Pollman, Chair of the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Committee.

* Remember the following when you are attending outside events:

* Check the weather forecast before leaving your house.

* When you arrive check around for the nearest shelter.

* Seek shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning.  Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder.  You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds.

* If you can’t find a shelter, get into a fully enclosed vehicle. Put your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands or blanket.

* Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder. Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall.

To assist those planning outdoor events, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has developed a brochure to help develop an emergency plan those organizing farmers’ markets, fairs and concerts. It is available on the website, www.mcswa.com.

In 2010, tornadoes and thunderstorms resulted in one death, 22 injuries and $360 million in damages in Michigan.  Flooding caused another $7 in damages.

It is important for Michiganians to be familiar with severe weather alerts.  A tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch simply means that severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible.  Residents should gather a first aid kit, flashlight and portable radio or their emergency supply kit.  They should monitor the weather through local television, radio or NOAA weather radio.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or is indicated on Doppler Radar.  Go immediately to the basement or a small interior room on the lowest level.  Keep away from chimneys and windows.  Leave mobile homes and find shelter in a sturdy building.

When a thunderstorm warning is issued for your area, get indoors immediately and do not use the telephone or electrical appliances. Keep away from windows.  Do not take shelter in sheds or under isolated trees. If you are out boating and swimming, get to land and find a sturdy shelter immediately.

To prepare for severe weather, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness suggests that you:

* Plan ahead. Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of severe weather.  Make plans for those who may have trouble getting to shelter.

* Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and a fresh supply of batteries.

* Know the shelter locations in public buildings, such as work, schools and shopping centers.

* Make a list of household furnishings and other items.  Take photographs of each room.  Store the list and photos in safe place.

* Have an emergency communication plan.  Know how to reach family and friends if you are unable to meet at home.

* Create an emergency plan for your pets.

See below for more safety tips, or visit the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness website at www.mcswa.com. The Committee is also on Facebook.


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