April 16-20, 2012 is Wisconsin's Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week

It's that time of the year again when we need to start thinking and preparing for tornadoes and severe weather weather!

The week of April 16-20, 2012 is Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Emergency Management team and the five National Weather Service Forecast Offices that serve Wisconsin are asking that everyone take time to go over their safety plans so that they will be ready when severe weather strikes.

On Thursday, April 19, 2012, a statewide drill was held.  At 1 pm, the National Weather Service issued a mock Tornado Watch and at 1:45pm a statewide mock Tornado Warning.  The drill ended at 2 pm.

For the first time ever, nearly all Radio, TV and Cable stations across Wisconsin participated in the drill.  And for the first time, NOAA Weather Radios (also known as Emergency Weather Radios) carried an audible tone-alert during the drill.

This was an ideal opportunity for schools, businesses and individuals to practice safe procedures for severe weather. If you missed the drill, it is still not too late to go over your severe weather safety plans with co-workers and family.




The National Weather Service, Wisconsin Emergency Management, and ReadyWisconsin have planned a series of special efforts to promote storm safety including:

- A statewide TV public service campaign with tornado survivors urging everyone to have an emergency weather radio.
- A statewide campaign urging everyone to “Listen, Act and Live!”.  When you hear a tornado warning find the best shelter available immediately.
- Ready Radio Days. ReadyWisconsin teams up with the National Weather Service and TV stations across the state to promote the use of emergency weather radios.
- ReadyWisconsin Trivia Challenge with emergency weather radios as a prize. Go to http://readywisconsin.wi.gov to enter.




There were two new and important changes to the 2012 Tornado Drill.

1) First, the drill times changed with all counties participating in the mock tornado warning at the same time.

1:00 pm – National Weather Service issued a mock tornado watch for all of Wisconsin (a watch means tornadoes are possible
in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms).
1:45pm - National Weather Service issued a mock tornado warning for all of Wisconsin (a warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on weather radar. Move to a place of safety immediately).

Since no actual severe weather occurred anywhere in the state on April 19, the tornado drill did not have to be postponed until Friday, April 20. If it had been postponed, the test watch/warning would have been issued at the same time.

2) Second, the drill was a true, end-to-end test involving interruption of broadcast radio, TV and cable stations and tone-alerting of the test watch and warning on NOAA Weather Radios (also known as Emergency Weather Radios). Some TV Stations may have had one of their meterologists announce the mock warning.  This was an historic first in Wisconsin.

The tornado warning at 1:45pm lasted about one minute on radio and TV stations across Wisconsin. (The drill also occurred at the same time in Minnesota and broadcasted on radio and TV stations in that state as well).  When it was concluded stations returned to normal programming.  Television viewers and radio station and emergency radio listeners heard a message indicating that "this is a test," or for TV - they saw a slide in the background or a scroll along the top or bottom of the screen with the phrase "This is a Test."

This was a great opportunity for you to practice your tornado emergency plan with family, friends, and co-workers. Hundreds of schools also participated in the drill. During tornado season, Listen, Act and Live. Don’t ignore watches and warnings. Listen and take action. Every second counts. Don’t wait… go to a safe place right away!




Frequently Asked Questions about the Tornado Test

1) How does the National Weather Service deliver this tornado test and real tornado watches and warnings?  They use something called the Emergency Alert System.

2) What is the Emergency Alert System (EAS)?  EAS is a national public alert and warning system that enables the President of the United States to address the American public during extreme emergencies.  Alerting authorities like the National Weather Service can also use the state and local EAS to send alerts and warnings to radio and television stations, cable television, and NOAA Weather Radios (also known as Emergency Weather Radios).

3) Why do this test? The National Weather Service, Wisconsin Emergency Management and theWisconsin Broadcasters Association felt it was important to allow the public to truly test their NOAA Weather Radio receivers which can only be activated using a real Tornado Warning code.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required a waver for this Live Code Testing to be conducted.  This code also triggers the alert to air on broadcast radio, TV and cable stations.  The ultimate goal of any drill is to test all electronic systems that alert Wisconsin citizens for impending severe weather that can result in the loss of life and property. Conducting a live, end-to-end drill accomplishes this goal by tone-alerting watches and warnings on NOAA Weather Radio and broadcasting them through media outlets.

4) What Can I Expect to Hear/See? The test may look like regular, local EAS tests that most people are already familiar with, but there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear. The audio message will repeat “This is a test.” The video message scroll may not indicate “This is a test” due to programming limitations. The message will last for approximately one minute and then regular programming will resume.  Some TV stations may opt to have one of their meteorologists announce the mock tornado watch and/or warnings rather than have a message scroll across the bottom of the screen or have a broadcast of the audio message.

5) Where Will I Hear/See the Test?  On all participating radio, television, cable providers (who are called EAS Participants) and NOAA Weather Radios.

6) When Will the Test Occur? April 19th at 1:00 PM for the watch and at 1:45 PM CDT for the warnings.  That is the same time the test will be conducted in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin.




Tornado Safety at Home, Work, or at Play......  Listen, Act, and Live

• In a home or building, avoid windows.  Move to a basement, and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. A specially-constructed "safe room" within a building offers the best protection.  Use an internet search engine and search for "safe room" for more information.

• If a basement is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and cover yourself with anything close at hand: towels, blankets, pillows.  If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk or counter.  Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.

• If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building.  If you cannot quickly walk to shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.  If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.

Now you have two options as a last resort:
- Stay in the vehicle with the seatbelt on and place your head below the windows.
- If you can safely get noticeably lower than the roadway, exit the vehicle and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.  Do  not seek shelter under an overpass.

• Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.  You should leave a mobile home and go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.

• At school, follow the drill.  Go to the interior hall or room.  Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms.  Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.




For additional information about the week's activities, please click on the following links....


Wisconsin Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week

Wisconsin Emergency Management

Ready Wisconsin

Severe Weather Spotter Page

Scary - Looking Cloud Club

NWS Reference Guide - Everything You Wanted to Know About the National Weather Service

Storm Prediction Center - About Tornadoes - About Derechoes - SPC WCM Page

What Do You Know About Wind-Resistant Buildings?

Wisconsin Severe Weather Climatology Page

Are You Ready for Severe Weather?

Below is information from the Ready Wisconsin folks...

 Survival Stories- The PSA is based on our interview with Larry and Rita in Park Falls. Check out their story and others on our website:




Kapela, WFO Milwaukee

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