The week of April 15-19 is Tornado Awareness Week in Wisconsin and with any luck, the crazy weather we have been experiencing lately in Wisconsin will help increase residents' awareness and preparedness for tornadoes and even more dangerous weather.
A freak ice storm hit east central Wisconsin overnight on April 10 knocking down countless trees and power lines, damaging homes and farm buildings and cutting electricity to thousands of homes, farms and businesses. The storm should serve as a wakeup call to all of us that while we can't prevent severe weather from happening, being prepared can make the difference between life and death.
On the evening of July 18, 1996, an F-5 tornado slammed into the Village of Oakfield and the surrounding area. Half of the village's homes and churches, several businesses and the Oakfield Middle School were destroyed by the tornado, several area farms had buildings and homes damaged and destroyed and yet nobody was killed. I personally credit three things for that miracle: 1. The storm happened during the Fond du Lac County Fair and many of the village's 1,000 residents were not home – they were safe at the fair in Fond du Lac. 2. The storm hit around 7:15 p.m. when it was still light out – many people could see the tornado coming. And most importantly, 3.Everyone had an eight-minute warning that a tornado was headed for Oakfield which gave residents time to seek shelter in their basements.
Tornadoes are fairly common in Wisconsin and usually occur between April and September.
Wisconsin experiences an average of 21 tornadoes per year. In 2005, the Badger State saw a record 62 tornadoes.
On Thursday, April 18, a statewide mock tornado watch will be released by the National Weather Service at 1 p.m. A statewide mock tornado warning will follow at 1:45 p.m. If you have the chance to participate in this drill, do so. If you or your family members are at work and school, practice when they are all able to be at home.
In the meantime, take time to gather the items the American Red Cross suggests that you need and follow their advice to increase your chances of surviving tornado season.
Here is what the Red Cross suggests:
*Pick a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
*Assemble a Tornado Safety Kit containing:
First aid kit and essential medications
Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
Canned food and can opener
Sturdy shoes and work gloves
Also include in the kit written instructions on how to turn off your home's utilities
Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information
*Know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING means:
A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately.
Tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS are issued by the county
*When a tornado WATCH is issued:
Listen to local radio and TV stations for further updates.
Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train.
*When a tornado WARNING is issued:
If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. The tornado may be approaching your area.
If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head for safety
*After the tornado passes:
Watch out for fallen power lines and do not venture into the damaged area.
Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.
With winds swirling at 200 miles an hour or more, a tornado can destroy just about anything in its path., Generally, there are weather signs and warnings that will alert you to take precautions.