Are you prepared for the storm?

By Tod Pritchard
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Wisconsin Emergency Management

“All of a sudden the wind just started picking up,” he said, “and it was like somebody grabbed a knob on the wall and started turning it up from ‘calm’ to ‘windy’ to ‘wow.'”

“Debris and chunks [were] flying through the air,” she said. “If you’ve ever heard one tree fall, imagine 50 trees cracking and falling.”

“There was about a 16-inch diameter tree, and I watched it rotate and go 12 feet up, just explode,” he added. “The tree remained vertical and floated away over the horizon.”

Falling trees destroyed the screen house that Larry and Rita Krznarich of Park Falls, Wis., had just been in prior to being warned of the dangerous weather, thanks to a weather radio. Their camping trip last July was disrupted, but the couple survived.

Sunday was a day for the record books, as 10 confirmed tornadoes — at least two in the EF2 category — swept across parts of Wisconsin. More than 100 homes and several businesses were either destroyed or severely damaged, and three people were seriously injured.

Wisconsin averages 21 tornadoes annually which can occur anytime of the day or night, but are most frequent between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. In 2010 there were 46 tornadoes in the state — the second greatest yearly number on record. Fortunately, no one was killed, but 22 people were injured by tornadoes that would cause nearly $30 million in property damage.

April 11-15 is Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin. If you visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov/ you will view survival stories from the Krznariches and others across the state. The details of their experiences may be different, but their messages are the same — get an emergency weather radio in your home, office and school. Emergency radios immediately alert you of severe weather and tornadoes headed your way.

In addition, learn how the National Weather Service keeps you informed about storms:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Storms are possible in your area.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: A thunderstorm with large hail and damaging winds has been reported or indicated by weather radar.
  • Tornado Watch: Severe Thunderstorms with tornadoes are possible in your area. 
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Move to a place of safety immediately.

Wisconsin will hold a statewide tornado drill on Thursday, April 14 from 1-2pm. It’s a great opportunity to practice what to do and where to go during severe weather.

Were you ever caught in dangerous weather? Why not share your own survival story – it might save someone else’s life.