Today is Tornado Drill Day during Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness week.

According to information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management and National Weather Service, that means tornado drills will be conducted across the state.

Two drills will be held in most counties. Rice County will be involved in both drills.

The first will happen at 1:45PM and the second at 6:45PM, according to state officials, but Rice County officials on our Severe Weather Awareness show recently said the second drill in Rice County would be at 6:55PM.

Regardless, when the outdoor notification sirens go off it means you should tune to your local radio station and find out why the sirens have been activated.

For Thursday drill purposes, there will be a mock tornado warning and everyone should practice their plan of action when a real tornado warning is issued.

When traveling you should always know what county you are in just in case an emergency arises.

In Minnesota, tornadoes have been reported in every month from March through November. The earliest tornado report came earlier this year on March 6 when two tornadoes touched down. The latest in any year happened on November 16, 1931, in Maple Plain.

Historically and statistically, June is the month with the most activity and July is not far behind. May is third on the list, then August. Most often they occur between 2PM and 9PM; they can occur any time of day or night.

The first tornado ever reported was on April 19, 1820, at Fort Snelling at 11 at night. There were no deaths or injuries.

On August 21, 1883, at 6:36 in the evening, Rochester was hit hard and 37 people lost their lives with 200 injured. That tornado was a large reason why the Mayo Clinic was started.

The deadliest tornado in Minnesota history occurred on April 14, 1886, in the St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids communities: 72 people were killed and 213 injured. Among the killed were 11 members of a wedding party, including the groom. The bride eventually did remarry.

The last death from a tornado happened May 22, 2011, in Minneapolis in a storm that left 48 people injured.

Tornadoes have the power to lift railroad cars and carry them many yards through the air. The power of their winds make deadly missiles of loose objects, like broken glass. Even pieces of straw have been found embedded in trees and boards after a tornado.

There were 37 tornadoes reported in Minnesota in 2016 from May 25 to September 9. Most were EF0 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, the least powerful.

The first reported in 2016 in the KDHL listening area happened July 14 in Blue Earth, Le Seuer and Rice counties.

July 5 a EF1 tornado struck from Cannon City to Nerstrand in Rice County. The path length was 3.7 miles and the path width was 100 yards, according to the National Weather Service. It was on the ground from 7:39-7:44PM. There were no deaths or injuries.

Goodhue County also had a tornado reported July 5 from Sogn to Wastedo. It was on the ground from 7:54-7:57PM. Thank heavens there were also no deaths or injuries.

When you are notified of a tornado warning the following actions should be taken:

  • In a house with a basement, go there and get under some kind of sturdy protection (a heavy table or work bench) or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects are on the floor above and do not go under them. They could fall down from a weakened floor and crush you. Avoid windows.
  • In a house with no basement, go to the lowest floor, a small center room (bathroom or closet), under a stairwell or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding like a mattress or blankets to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling collapse.
  • In a mobile home simply get out. Even if your home is tied down you are probably safer outside. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes. In Minnesota it's the law for mobile home courts to either have a shelter on site or a plan for a shelter elsewhere. In Faribault, the mobile home courts work with the school district to go to school locations for shelter.
  • In a vehicle if the tornado is visible, park the car as quickly and safely as possible out of traffic lanes and get out seeking shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any vehicles that might roll over on you. Lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Do not seek shelter under bridges or overpasses because wind can be accelerated there and offer little protection against flying debris.
  • In the open outdoors, again if possible seek shelter in a sturdy building. If that doesn't work, lie flat and face down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.

Today's tornado drills offer a great opportunity for you to practice your plan of action when a warning is issued. Remember, seconds can save the lives of yourself and loved ones so take this seriously.

Elbow Lake Tornado September 5, 1969- photo from HSEM
Elbow Lake Tornado September 5, 1969- photo from HSEM

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