What is Severe Weather Awareness Week?
Severe Weather Awareness Week is a week dedicated to planning and preparing for the spring and summer severe weather season.
The state of Michigan has designated March 19-25 as the time to advocate and prepare for severe weather.
As part of the effort, Wednesday, March 22 at 1pm, there will be a voluntary statewide tornado drill. Some communities will sound their sirens and emergency alerts may be heard on your devices.
While Michigan doesn’t experience intense severe weather as often as other parts of the country, the state is no stranger to dangerous weather.
What Severe Weather Does Michigan Get?
You name it, Michigan gets all severe weather just short of hurricanes.
· Thunderstorms (bring heavy rain, lightning, hail, strong winds)
· Winter storms
All of the above is considered severe weather, but this time of year the focus is thunderstorms and related weather.
Extreme weather like tornadoes and thunderstorms are more likely to happen late March through mid-September, for all of Michigan.
The highest chance for Northern Michigan to get any severe weather (not including winter storms) is between early May and early September.
Michigan averages ~16 tornadoes a year, with most of them being EF-2 or weaker. However, stronger tornadoes are never out of the question.
How to Be Prepared
Depending on your location, the way you handle the situation is different.
If you’re caught outside in a general thunderstorm:
Find the closest stable building. You don’t want to be exposed to being struck by lightning or potential hail, or wind-blown objects. Stay away from windows and doors.
This doesn’t include pavilions, beach shacks, metal sheds, etc. These will not conduct the electricity of the lightning safely.
If no building is near, but your car is, get inside it and keep the windows rolled up. This will keep you safe from lightning.
If there is a tornado:
Go to the lowest level or interior most location of your home or the nearest sturdy building. Most towns have designated storm shelter areas. Check with your local area to find yours.
Mobile homes, campers, and cars are not safe during a tornado.
If you are in your car during a tornado, get out and find the lowest ground possible like a ditch. Lay down and cover your head. If you must stay in your car, keep your seat belt and duck down as far as you can to avoid flying debris. Do NOT seek shelter under an overpass.
If there is flooding:
Go to higher ground.
Do not try to drive through any amount of majorly flooded road.
Try not to wade through flooded areas. They can have dangerous chemicals and floating debris, and can be energized from downed lines or appliances.
Water currents can easily carry you away, along with cars and other unsecure objects.
Watch this short video from Meteorologist Tom O’Hare on some important details on tornado and flooding safety.
What to have ready:
It is important to have some supplies ready in advance of severe weather. It can help you in case of power outages and much more. The following is a list of some of the most important supplies to have. Make sure you know what else you need depending on your own situation such as medication.
· Water bottles
· Air horn
· Cellphone/ radio
· First Aid kit
Why Should You Care?
Michigan has a long history of dangerous weather experiences. The most recent event that many will remember through generations is the Gaylord Tornado in May of 2022.
The tornado that traveled through Gaylord was an EF-3 tornado, classified as a strong tornado. The tornado traveled through the downtown area, causing extensive damage by destroying a mobile home park, several business, and killing two people.
Related: Here Are the Most Devastating Natural Disasters in Michigan History
Whether it as extreme as tornadoes, gusty winds that cause power outages, or heavy rains that flood rivers and city streets into your home, you can be left stranded.
Just because it doesn’t happen often, doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. It is best to be prepared and have a plan.