Tornado drill will take place April 18

For more than 25 years, the state of Minnesota has conducted a Severe Weather Awareness Week in partnership with the National Weather Service and local governments. A statewide tornado drill is part of that event.

The Severe Weather Awareness Week campaign helps teach and remind Minnesotans about weather hazards and provides resources to minimize the risks associated with severe weather.

On Thursday, April 18, sirens will sound in Sleepy Eye at 1:45 and 6:55 p.m. as a drill to allow families and businesses to practice their emergency plans.

“In the event of severe weather the sirens mean that there is an immediate threat to the community and residents need to take immediate shelter,” said Shari Hittesdorf, Emergency Management Director.

Hittesdorf said local officials will contact dispatch to authorize the sirens to sound when a tornado is spotted by a trained weather spotter in an area approaching town. Notification when the danger has passed will be by local radio or TV stations, not another signal.

“There is always confusion that if the siren is sounded a second time, it means all clear. Sleepy Eye does not have an all clear signal. If the siren sounds again, there is another threat.” 

Brown County Emergency Management advises to plan for and know the risks of natural disasters including tornadoes, floods and severe thunderstorms.

Things to consider when preparing for a disaster include exit strategies, a meeting point once everyone has safely exited the home, communication in case of separation and how to shut off utilities.

Brown County Emergency management also advises having important supplies and information on hand in case of a natural disaster. Those include a basic emergency supply kit, water and food, batteries, flashlight and a radio, copies of insurance information for property, health and life, spare money and medications if needed.

Hittesdorf said anyone who does not have adequate shelter can seek shelter at the ambulance, police garage building in the basement.

If caught out in the open and there is no underground shelter immediately available, it is advised to lay in a low spot on the ground protecting your head and body.

Anyone caught in a vehicle should stay there and buckle in for safety. At home, the safest place is the interior part of the basement under something sturdy like a table or a stairwell.

“The Comfrey, St. Peter, Hanska area tornado happened 15 years ago on March 29 so we are definitely in the season for severe weather,” Hittesdorf said. “Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a time when families and businesses should go over the preparedness plans such as where shelters are located and what to do in the event of severe weather.”