Sirens’ call: County preps for annual severe weather drill April 18

WashCo_logo            After digging out from this weeks’ snowstorm, Washington County residents will hear the siren’s call April 18 to prepare for the spring and early summer severe storm season.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Monday through April 19 “Severe Weather Awareness Week” and the county will participate in the annual statewide tornado drill April 18.

Despite winter keeping chilly hold on the St. Croix Valley, disasters have claimed the lives of 21 Minnesotans and caused more than $373 million in federally-declared damages, according to the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

To prepare residents for the coming severe weather season, Washington County will sound outdoor warning sirens during two simulated tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.

The county’s warning sirens are activated in two geographic areas — north and south. The north zone is all warning sirens north of Interstate 94. The south zone is all warning sirens south of Minnesota 96.

The county has three activation scenarios, all-county, north area and south area, depending on the location of severe weather. However, some cities chose to have sirens activated no matter what zone is experiencing severe weather, said county emergency management officials.

During the 1:45 p.m. test April 18, the county will test sirens using its backup activation system, sounding north area sirens first and allowing them to run until they automatically stop. South area sirens will then be tested the same way.

County officials said some sirens will be sounded twice to give local authorities the opportunity to determine if the sirens they maintain are operating properly.
All county-wide warning sirens will be activated during the 6:55 p.m. Test and allowed to run until stopping automatically. Sirens will be sounded once during the evening test.

County emergency officials remind residents that sirens are designed to be heard by people outside of buildings. Those officials urge county residents to look into other alert methods such as cell phone capabilities and NOAA weather radios for homes and businesses. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/nwrrcvr.htm for information on weather radio models, where to buy weather radios and how to program them.

Along with the April 18 tornado drill, the HSEM web site has daily topics on alerts and warnings Monday; severe weather, lightning and hail Tuesday; floods Wednesday, and dealing with extreme heat April 19.

County residents can also visit www.co.washington.mn.us and click “Public Safety” and “Sheriff’s Office” for helpful information and a map of the county’s outdoor warning sirens.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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