April 15-21 is severe weather awareness week
Wednesday (yesterday) was the 47th anniversary of the April 11, 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes—the second deadliest tornado outbreak in history. There were 47 tornadoes in five states, including 12 tornadoes in Michigan. The F4 that moved through Ottawa County and northern Kent County went for 21 miles, caused 142 injuries, and 5 deaths. Counting all five states, there were 271 fatalities and 1,500 were injured that day.
Following that particular tornado outbreak, the NOAA National Weather Service underwent changes to improve severe weather forecasts and warnings, including establishing the Watch and Warning Program that exists today and the weather spotter program, SKYWARN.
Next week, April 15-21, is severe weather awareness week, and the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness wants to make sure residents are prepared for possible severe weather, including tornadoes, lighting, flooding, or thunderstorm winds.
According to the National Weather Service, there were four deaths and 31 injuries in Michigan from severe weather in 2011. All of the deaths and injuries resulted from either lightning or thunderstorm winds. Flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes were responsible for about $150 million in damages in 2011, down from the $360 million in damages in 2010.
In 2011, there were 15 tornadoes across the state, which is very close to the average of 16. Fortunately, only four of the 15 tornadoes in 2011 caused significant damage, and six of the 15 tornadoes didn’t cause any damage. It could be argued that prior to the proliferation of cameras over the past couple of decades that those six non-damaging tornadoes may have never been recorded.
Lightning was also an issue. A family was on a tubing outing on the Au Sable River on July 23 when a thunderstorm rapidly developed, and they attempted to exit the river and find shelter. They had just exited the river when three of the individuals were struck by lightning. Two women were pronounced dead at the scene. A man was transported to a hospital in Saginaw in critical condition. He would survive, but require a 10-day hospital stay and considerable physical therapy. The survivor had no recollection of the incident.
What should you do in case of severe weather?
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.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted or is indicated on Doppler radar. Go immediately to the basement or a small interior room on the lowest level of a permanent structure. A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. Keep away from chimneys and windows. Broken glass and wind-blown projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than collapsed buildings. Protect your head with a pillow, blanket, or mattress. Leave mobile homes and find shelter in a sturdy building.
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.
Click here to find out facts on tornadoes, lightning and flood safety, and tips to prepare a plan to evacuate your pet