Otter Tail County, unfortunately, is no stranger to severe weather. In 2010, a tornado ripped through the area devasting neighboring Wadena. And in 2019, Fergus Falls remembers the cyclone that twisted through the city 100 years ago.
According to the National Weather Service, Minnesota experiences an average of 40 tornadoes each year. A record was set in 2010 with 104 tornadoes across the state.
With these numbers looming over the state, it is important residents be prepared for when the next round of severe weather will strike.
This week as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management is collaborating with the National Weather Service to educate people about the seasonal threats from severe weather. Among several things planned, the agencies encourage people to make and practice their emergency plans and to refresh their emergency preparedness kits.
Review your family’s needs, and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Select a place to go for protection or to go if you get separated, and write down important phone numbers. Make sure everyone carries a copy of this information in their backpack, purse or wallet. You can print it onto a wallet-sized card at ready.gov/make-a-plan.
Check with places your family spends time, such as schools, workplaces, churches, grocery stores or sports facilities and learn what their emergency plans are. This can be done with other places on both the neighborhood and community levels, too.
There will be statewide tornado drills at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Thursday. The first drill is intended for institutions and businesses, while the evening drill is intended for families and second-shift workers.
Use this week as an opportunity to prepare yourself for the worst.
Tornado safety preparation tips
• Avoid windows because they can break from flying debris.
• Low, center rooms like bathrooms, closets and underneath stairwells are good options to seek shelter.
• Protect your body by crouching down as low as possible, facing down and covering your head with your hands.
• Keep a weather radio or TV on so you can hear any updates.
• Evacuate mobile vehicles and find safer shelter options such as a sturdy building.
• If you are in a vehicle on the roadway and can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, like in a ditch, leave your car and lie there. Be sure to cover you head with your hands.
• Map out storm shelter buildings if you know you are going to be driving during potentially bad weather.
— Information from Farm Bureau Financial Services