Be prepared when spring showers bring more than flowers

Taking steps now can minimize damage and protect your family when floods, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other severe weather events unexpectedly occur.

As winter turns to spring and spring to summer, weather conditions can often change rapidly and that increases the potential for severe weather. These sudden shifts in weather leave little time for you to prepare. Michigan State University Extension strongly recommends that people learn how to prepare in advance as well as respond during severe weather events.

The Michigan State Police Emergency Management & Homeland Security Division notes that in 2012, per the National Weather Service, there were over 450 fatalities and 2,600 injuries in the United States due to severe weather. Though Michigan is not subject to weather events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, it does experience floods, tornadoes and thunderstorms that can cause damage, injury and death.

Learn now how to prepare in advance as well as respond during severe weather events.

In 2012 alone, Michigan had six tornadoes and 15 flooding events that resulted in $210 million in damages. Two deaths and four injuries also occurred during 2012 severe weather events in Michigan.

Many residents may not realize that Michigan averages 15 tornadoes every year, or that the deaths and injuries that did occur during 2012 were the result of severe thunderstorms rather than tornadoes.

Of all the severe weather events Michigan experienced during 2012, probably the most memorable was the tornado that struck the Dexter area in mid-March. With winds reaching 140 mph, the tornado was classified as an EF3 and destroyed four homes while damaging 200 other homes and businesses.

Recently, Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder declared April 7-13 as Severe Weather Awareness Week, urging residents to become informed about severe weather terms and take steps to better prepare before extreme weather events occur.

This annual declaration supports the work of the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (MCSWA). Formed in 1991 to encourage Michigan residents to be prepared for severe weather, the MCSWA website offers an annual information packet that reviews the severe weather events of the previous year, provides a history of Michigan tornado activity by county, tornado and thunderstorm facts and safety tips, flood preparation and flood insurance resources, lightning safety, and disaster preparation for pet owners.

The MCSWA annual packet also contains contact information for the five regional National Weather Service (NWS) offices located in Michigan as well as for MCSWA committee members. If you have a smart phone, you can be alerted about urgent weather warnings. If not, you can tune in to your local NWS office for weather warnings and updates. Instructions for accessing both services are provided in the packet.

All of these weather resource sites suggest you prepare ahead of time an emergency kit containing food, drinking water, necessary prescription medications, flashlights with extra batteries, important personal documents, maps, and personal care items. They also recommend you have a communication plan with all family members in case not all are at home together when a severe weather event occurs.

MSU Extension is part of a collaboration that provides weather-based information for growers. Enviro-weather is a network of automated weather stations located throughout the state that provides up-to-date local weather information of particular interest to growers, including air temperature, wind direction, precipitation amounts, relative humidity and other measures. Though much different in focus than the severe weather warning services mentioned above, the Enviro-weather website provides a wealth of weather-related information and provides links to the NWS radar map for Michigan and local weather forecasts.

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