Severe Weather Awareness Week

Despite all the snow still on the ground, real spring and summer-like weather is not that far away, says Matt Zika, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Marquette.

Severe weather associated with summertime thunderstorms results in damage and injuries every year in the state of Michigan.

Gov. Rick Snyder has declared this week, April 7-13, as Michigan Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Residents are asked to reacquaint themselves with the hazards associated with summertime thunderstorms and to practice their safety precautions.

“It is also a great time for residents to consider attending a Spring Storm Spotter presentation where the public can learn how they can play an important role in the weather warning process,” Zika said.

In Dickinson County, a Storm Spotter presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, in Fornetti Hall at Bay College West in Iron Mountain.

While the entire state of Michigan experienced a below average year for thunderstorm related severe weather in 2012, there were two deaths and four injuries attributed to severe summertime weather across the state, Zika said.

Severe thunderstorms, flooding, and tornadoes were responsible for over $210 million in damages in 2012, up from $150 million in damages in 2011.

In the Upper Peninsula, there were 63 reports of thunderstorm related severe weather in 2012 which was close to the long term average.

Typically 15 tornadoes touch down across the state in a given year with the Upper Peninsula averaging around one per year.

Last year only six tornadoes touched down across the state, but one of them did touch down in the Upper Peninsula.

The U.P. tornado touched down during the early evening of June 8 in Marquette County southwest of Big Bay.

The tornado was on the ground for nearly 8 miles making it one of the longest track tornadoes in Marquette County history.

While it was in a very rural area, wind speeds up to 95 mph snapped trees and did damage at the Eagle Mine.

Other severe thunderstorms on that day produced funnel clouds and golf ball sized hail in downtown Marquette.

Severe thunderstorms affected other areas of the U.P. throughout last summer.

Thunderstorm winds produced wind damage near Channing, Kiva, Menominee, and at Wells State Park in Menominee County where hundreds of trees were snapped and uprooted.

Baseball sized hail also fell near Republic in Marquette County. While there were some close calls, there were no injuries from severe weather across the Upper Peninsula in 2012.

Despite the perception that the Upper Peninsula is immune to significant severe weather, the area is at risk for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hail, floods and lightning.

During Severe Weather Awareness Week in Michigan, the National Weather Service is encouraging residents to review severe weather safety procedures especially since they probably have not been put into action in some time.

Plan ahead. Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do hen severe weather threatens. The best time to prepare for severe weather is before it happens.

The National Weather Service offers the following tips.

What to do when a thunderstorm approaches your area:

– Stay tuned to your weather radio for the latest updates from the National Weather Service or go to the National Weather Service Web site,

– Seek safe shelter when you first hear thunder or when you see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or see lightning. To determine the proximity of the severe weather, count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear thunder. If the time between is less than 30 seconds, ensure you are in a safe location and stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder or see lightning. Remember, lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall.

– When you hear thunder, run to the nearest large building or a fully enclosed vehicle (soft-topped convertibles are not safe). It is not safe anywhere outside.

– If you are boating or swimming, get to land and seek shelter immediately.

– Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Any item plugged into an electrical outlet may cause a hazard during a tornado or thunderstorm. Do not use corded (plug-in) telephones except in an emergency.

What to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area:

– Quickly move to shelter in the basement or lowest floor of a permanent structure.

– In homes and small buildings, go to the basement and get under something sturdy, like a workbench or stairwell. If a basement is not available, go to an interior part of the home on the lowest level. A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible.

– In schools, hospitals, and public places, move to the designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floors are generally best.

– Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Broken glass and wind blown projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than collapsed buildings. Protect your head with a pillow, blanket, or mattress.

– If you are caught outdoors, a sturdy shelter is the only safe location in a tornado.

– If you are boating or swimming, get to land and seek shelter immediately.

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