Severe weather awareness

Although tornadoes are ripping through the south central Midwest and the South in recent days North Dakotans will have to be wary as well as we enter Severe Summer Weather Awareness week, which runs from Monday through Friday.

The National Weather Service will be testing emergency signals throughout the state in conjunction with local jurisdictions. In Minot a test will be issued from Minot Central Dispatch at around 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday through the Minot Area Outdoor Warning System as well as through television interrupt signals. The tests will continue thereafter on the second and last Monday of each month through October. Possible Memorial Day ceremonies will not be interrupted, though, and signals will instead be tested the Monday before, on May 19, according to DeVawn Bechman, a manager with Minot Central Dispatch.

Those residents in the outlying areas of cities in Ward County like Minot should be receiving fliers from the Ward County Emergency Management office sometimes next week, said manager Amanda Schooling.

Minot has two schools that serve as the primary severe storm and weather shelters. The first is Jim Hill Middle School, located at 1000-6th St. SW, and the other is Jefferson Early Childhood Center at 3800-11th Ave. SE.

“We never used to have Jefferson but with all the FEMA trailers we have out there we added Jefferson to the list,” Schooling said.

With the population increasing and with more people living in less than solid housing situations, though, there is more concern than ever as evidenced through the opening of Jefferson as an official shelter.

The Emergency Management office contracts with each city to provide a school as a sheltering location. In Kenmare it’s the high school at 300-7th Ave. NE. In Des Lacs it’s the Des Lacs-Burlington High School located at 317 Roosevelt St. Burlington area residents should go to the Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary School at 301 Wallace St. Douglas doesn’t have public buildings so those in the Douglas area and other farther areas of the county should determine what the nearest city and official shelter location is to them.

Local law enforcement will open the schools up as soon as an emergency is called.

If there is imminent danger present, though, Schooling suggests that people shelter in place, seeking the safest area of their home. A safe area would probably be a basement but if a basement is not present, an internal room with no windows is recommended.

“If you’re at the mall and there’s a tornado watch there they ask people to go into the corridors behind the stores,” said Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski.

If you live in a mobile home the sheriff and other officials suggest getting to the city because the mobile homes are not structurally safe enough to withstand a strong storm or a tornado. If you live farther out, the cellar of a farm house is suggested.

Adam Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Bismarck, said that the weather over this advisory week is looking better than normal.

“Thankfully it doesn’t look severe like you’d expect for summer weather. We might have some flood issues with some rain like yesterday and today,” he said on Tuesday. “Then the rest of the week should be relatively quiet.”

He said that the NWS monitors the radar and looks for sensitive weather patterns and how the wind will affect the direction and duration of those patterns.

“We confirm it looks severe on radar or solicit reports from the public from storm responders and our partners and once we’ve determined it poses a significant threat to life or property we’ll issue a warning,” he said.

Those issues tend to last between 30 to 60 minutes and will be issued on the same emergency channels as the tests. If the weather looks like it will intensify they will add a modifier to their warnings and and if it begins to wane then they may drop the warning early, he said.