Preparing for a tornado begins well in advance

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 2:08 PM CDT
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MINNESOTA (KTTC) -- When a tornado forms what should you do?

Experts say you need to have a safe place to go picked out before any storm event.

“Believe it or not, on a sunny day is the perfect time to think about tornadoes,” said Ken Jones, City of Rochester Director of Emergency Management.

Jones says this because tornadoes can be unpredictable.

“Usually, we know ahead of time that there’s a risk, but storms can crop up when we have hot, humid weather,” said Ben Klinger, Winona County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

Tornadoes have played a big part in shaping the region.

“The Mayo Clinic got started because of a severe tornado,” Jones said.

The storm he refers to happened in August of 1883. It it thought to have been an EF5 tornado.

“These storms can be pretty bad if you’re right in the path of them,” Jones said, advising people to not dismiss an EF0 tornado.

Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona is more than 150 years old but some of the trees were no match for the 95 mile an hour winds from an EF1 tornado in 2019.

“Thankfully we didn’t have any injuries,” Klinger said.

That was not the case in 1999 when two were injured in a Winona County tornado that hit downtown Lewiston. This is why officials say you need to be prepared.

“One of things you want to do is to have your cell phone on so if we have a severe storm, you can be alerted,” Jones advises.

But, you should not use that cell phone or any other device to try to capture video of a tornado.

“I know that a lot of people have gone outside and it hasn’t hurt them. But, I also know a lot of people who have been caught off guard by a fast moving storm,” Jones said.

For those who do not have a safe place to go or get caught in a storm out at Quarry Hill Nature Center, the city of Rochester has a storm shelter connected to the tornado sirens.

“Once that goes off, it sends a signal to the room and actually unlocks the door,” Jones explains.

A car can provide some protection during a thunderstorm. However, it’s not the safest place to be if you’re in the path of the tornado.

“Exit the car and go into a ditch or low-lying area where debris would go over you,” Jones said.

No matter where you are when severe weather hits, officials remind you not to take any chances and seek shelter immediately.

“‘When the thunder roars, go indoors’ is what the National Weather Service likes to say,” Klinger concludes.

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