Today’s topic is tornadoes. Because of that, there is a statewide tornado drill scheduled for today. Outdoor warning sirens, weather radios, and other devices will all be activated today in the 10 AM hour. We have recieved word that the weather service will use a “live” tornado code. That means weather radios and other devices will say “tornado”, and not “test”, even though it is a drill. Sioux County Emergency Management Director Nate Huizenga says everyone should participate in the drill and practice going to your place of safety to work out any possible problems with the plan.
Huizenga says even individual people and families should practice tornado safety today, as we never know where we might be when a warning is issued. Tornadoes can happen any time of the day. National Weather Service Meteorologist and lead forecaster Chris Jansen with the Sioux Falls office helps dispel some myths people believe about tornado safety.
The weather service says a tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air in contact with the ground. A visible cloud is not needed for a tornado to be in progress. Some tornadoes may not appear to extend to the ground but are causing considerable damage. Tornadoes take on various shapes and sizes, and most produce winds less than 120 mph. However, a few are capable of producing winds over 200 mph. Some tornadoes are very small and last for only a minute or so, while others can be a mile wide or larger and stay on the ground for over an hour.
In addition to the tornado watch which means conditions are right, stay alert — and the tornado warning which means take cover now — the weather service is now issuing a product called a “Tornado Emergency” It is not a new warning, but is used to highlight a confirmed tornado which is expected to be strong and violent. A Tornado Emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue.
The weather service also reminds you to listen to, or read the entire warning so you know what to expect, as a tornado warning is issued for everything from minor tornadoes all the way up to the largest, multiple vortex tornadoes.