(KXNET) — Governor Doug Burgum proclaimed April 24 through 28 as North Dakota Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week.
It’s observed by the National Weather Service to let the public know what weather events could happen during our state’s severe weather season.
And on Monday, we’re focusing on tornadoes.
“What we want people to do is know about, in case there’s going to be a tornado. Are you prepared for it? Do you have a place to go? Do you know what it means when you hear watch vs warnings? Things like that,” said Chief Meteorologist, Tom Schrader.
A tornado watch means current weather conditions could lead to a tornado. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted, or indicated by the weather radar.
And a tornado emergency, while rare, means there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage.
“Just a couple years ago, a little baby was killed in Watford City from a tornado. And part of the problem in North Dakota is a lot of these happen at night and you can’t see them coming, especially if it’s raining. They’re called being rain wrapped. And most tornadoes in North Dakota, they go down and right back up, but not all of them,” said Tom.
In North Dakota, peak tornado season is during June, July, and August, but they can happen as early as May or as late as September. And Tom says there are some ways you can tell if there’s a tornado coming.
“Well, sometimes you can tell just walking outside. But mostly we have to know about the wind shear in the atmosphere because there’s always wind shear, but it has to be the right kind of wind shear. The wrong kind of wind shear can wipe out a tornado, keep it from happening. But you can go outside, it’s really hot. It’s really muggy. It’s just kind of stifling. It might be windy. And if you look up in the clouds, you might see these big, tall, cumulonimbus, that’s the geeky word here. You might see these big, tall clouds kind of slowly turning a little bit,” said Tom.
And when the tornado is here, Kelly Haugan, the director of Emergency Management in Ward County, says there are a couple of ways people in the area will know.
“Public is notified by using EAS, the outdoor warning sirens. They’ll do a cable interrupt. Residents of Ward County can sign up for Hyper-Reach, that’s an emergency notification system. Or they can download an app from FEMA,” said Haugan.
If you’re inside and there is a tornado threat, avoid windows, get into an interior room of your home, go to the basement, or get under a sturdy piece of furniture or stairs.
But if you’re outside, it’s a different story.
“If they’re out driving in their vehicle, make sure they have a way to get notified if a tornado warning is issued. And if they’re in the vehicle, the best way is to drive away from it and if they can’t drive away, to get out of their vehicle and get to a low-lying area and lay down,” said Haugan.
Haugan says the Minot Municipal Court is a storm shelter, and other communities in North Dakota have several other storm shelters.
Tom says the entire state of North Dakota averages about 22 tornadoes a year.