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Statewide tornado drill to be conducted Wednesday as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared this week Severe Weather Awareness Week. Residents could hear outdoor sirens being tested Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division of the Michigan State Police are encouraging communities to participate in a statewide tornado drill starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday. During that time, residents may hear outdoor sirens being tested.

Ernie Ostuno is a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Grand Rapids. He says that while sirens serve their purpose, the most effective way of being alerted to severe weather is a weather radio, because not all communities have sirens.

“They basically would be able to get the warnings and have a battery backup and a tone alert feature and they could program a lot of these weather radios to go off when a tornado warning is issued or a severe thunderstorm warning for their local area.”

Ostuno says that a smart phone weather app alerting you to severe weather is an acceptable means of warning as well. He also reminds residents the difference between a watch and a warning.

“So when a watch comes out, it basically means watch the weather. The warning means take action. That means it’s imminent or occurring, it’s going to be on a smaller area for a shorter period of time than a watch and basically means that what we’re saying is that it’s either occurring or it’s about to.”

The National Weather Service says Michigan averages 15 tornadoes a year. Last year, the state experienced seven tornadoes which caused millions in property damage and two deaths.

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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