Storms, tornadoes on horizon

FAIRMONT – While spring weather brings warmer temperatures, it also can bring the threat of severe weather.

For more than 20 years, Minnesota has conducted Severe Weather Awareness Week in conjunction with the National Weather Service and local governments. Martin County emergency manager Erin Busta hopes individuals, families and businesses will use next week to discuss and prepare plans in case of severe weather events.

“The major thing is to just be aware,” she said.

Monday’s theme stresses the differences between alerts, watches and warnings.

“I think knowing the difference between these three when people are out and about doing things is important,” Busta said. “People then know how much time they have or what to do.”

Advisories are issued for less hazardous weather conditions and a more widespread location, such as winter weather or heat advisories.

When a watch is issued, it means weather conditions are favorable for a hazardous weather event. Those in the watch area need to stay alert to changing conditions or make plans to take shelter or evacuate, but they can continue on with daily activities.

When warnings are issued, it means dangerous weather conditions have developed in the warning area, and those in the area should take protective action immediately.

Residents in Martin County can stay posted to weather warnings – such as tornado, severe thunderstorms, flash floods or winter weather warnings – by signing up for the CodeRed notification program. It notifies those enrolled by phone call, text message or e-mail when a warning has taken effect for their registered zip code. Residents can enroll on the Sheriff Department’s website: www.co.martin.mn.us

Tuesday’s subject for severe weather awareness is severe thunderstorms, including lightning and hailstorms.

Thunderstorms are more common than tornadoes, but can still cause significant damage. Thunderstorms can produce straight-line winds up to 100 mph and damaging hail. Some thunderstorms also can produce tornadoes with little to no warning.

Wednesday’s subject is floods, and while flooding is rare in Martin County, it’s not impossible. Truman experienced severe flooding in September 2010.

“It can happen anywhere, anytime,” Busta said.

One important reminder for those out in flooding or flash-flood areas is: Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Even if it looks like a small puddle or very little water crossing the road, that is all it takes to carry a vehicle off course.

On Thursday, the focus is on tornadoes, with statewide tornado drills at 1:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.

Lisa Frommie, emergency manager for Faribault County, said the first drill is for the schools to practice their safety plan while the later one is for families.

“Think about the places where you spend a lot of time: work, school, churches,” Frommie said. “And know what you’d do if you were at that location.”

Friday, the heat is on.

“Excessive hear is always something we deal with here, with how humid it gets in this state,” Busta said. “If you don’t have air conditioning, plan on what you’re going to do, even if it’s just walking around in the mall for a few hours to give your body a break. It’s also important to drink lots of water.”

Staff writer Jodelle Greiner contributed to this article.