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Sheriff advises weather plans

FAIRMONT — Although cold temperatures and wind seem to have settled in for the time being, warmer weather is on the way. While that conjures up images of sunny days out on the lake or late evening walks, it also means an increased risk of severe weather.

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week and, according to Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the week is meant to refresh, remind and educate everyone about the seasonal threats from severe weather and how to avoid them. It’s also a great time for individuals and families to make and practice their emergency plans and build or refresh an emergency preparedness kit.

Martin County Sheriff Jeff Markquart shares that statewide tornado drills are scheduled for tomorrow. There will be a drill at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The first drill is intended for institutions and businesses. The evening drill is intended for second-shift workers and families.

Markquart also notes the importance of having a plan in place for severe weather and offers a tip for those families with children.

“It’s important to sit down and have those conversations at the supper table with your family,” he said. If your kids are outside and they hear the outside tornado warning system, have a plan.

“Make sure that they know to come in the house and go to the basement, or have your tub with your flashlight and weather radio in it. Just having a plan is pretty important.

“When you’ve got kids outside playing in the back yard most of them are young enough that, if you have a plan, they’re going to remember it. They enjoy it, it’s fun for them. So make it fun and save their lives.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota experiences an average of 28 tornadoes per year. In 2018, 44 twisters touched down. A record was set in 2010 with 113 tornadoes touching down across the state.

In a house with a basement, people should avoid windows and get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (such as a heavy table or workbench), or cover themselves with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

If no basement is available, go to the lowest floor, a small center room, under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bathtub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (such as a mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

If a person is in a mobile home, they are advised to get out. Even if a home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes, and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it.

If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

Markquart also emphasizes the fact that outdoor warning systems may not be heard by everybody.

“They are outside warning systems,” he said. “So if you’re in the house and you don’t hear it go off, don’t be alarmed. If your neighbors are out raking leaves and you’re in the house watching television, you may not hear it.

“A lot of times we’ll get calls asking why they didn’t hear the warning siren, but you may not hear it because they are outside sirens.”

For more tornado and weather safety tips, people can check out dps.mn.gov and look under the Homeland Security and Emergency Management division.

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