Preparing for Severe Weather

Minnesota’s Severe Weather Week is April 21-25

Stormy weather ahead sign with lightning bolt beside it. With beautiful spring weather come the dangers of severe weather and tornadoes.  Severe storm and tornado season in the Midwest typically occurs between April and July but the Midwest has seen tornado’s as early as March and as late as December. The Midwest experiences the most tornadoes during the month of May.

Minnesota will hold several severe weather activities during the week of April 21 – 25, 2014.

Local communities will focus on these topics each day:

  •  Monday – Alerts and Warnings
  • Tuesday – Severe Weather, Lightning and Hail
  • Wednesday – Floods
  • Thursday – Tornadoes (including practice Tornado drills)
  • Friday – Extreme Heat

The most important events will take place on Thursday, April 24, 2014, as Minnesota will conduct two state wide tornado drills.  Local communities will be testing their tornado warning systems at 1:45 pm and again at 6:55 pm. These drills are designed to have people practice “take cover” drills in the locations that they are typically at, during that time of day.

What to Do During a Tornado Event

In A House with a Basement

In A House with No Basement Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

In A House without a Basement

Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In an Apartment, Dorm or Condo

If you live in an apartment that is on an upper floor, get to the lowest level of the building that you can immediately. This could be an underground parking garage or a neighbor’s first floor apartment. Then move to the most interior area possible, away from windows.

If you live in a high-rise apartment building, you may not have enough time to get to a lower level, so picking a place in the hallway in the center of your building is the best idea such as a stairwell.  If that is not available then a closet, bathroom or interior hall without windows is the safest spot in your apartment during a tornado.  Power loss during a tornado storm is common, so avoid elevators and keep a flashlight handy.

In An Office Building, Hospital or Store

Follow instructions from facility managers. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

In A Mobile Home

Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

At A School

Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In A Car or Truck

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive away from its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can accelerate the wind while offering little protection against flying debris.

In The Open Outdoors

If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In A Shopping Mall, Large Store or Stadium

Listen for instructions from building security. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows. Move away from any glass.

In a church or theater

If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

Storm Warnings and What They Mean

Tornado touching down






  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Severe thunderstorms are likely – keep an eye on the sky and listen to the radio or watch your local TV new station for more information.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – this warning is issued when severe weather has been reported by trained weather watchers or appears on local weather radar.  Warnings of this nature mean that damage to personal property or danger to life is imminent to those in the path of the storm.
  • Tornado Watch – this weather warning indicates that tornadoes are possible.  Watch your local TV news station or listen to the radio for more information.
  • Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted by trained weather spotters or indicated by radar. Take shelter immediately.

As with any type of emergency have an emergency plan. Start with an emergency kit.  Include the following items:

  • Water – 1 gallon for each person per day and enough water for at least 3 days.
  • Food – have enough non-perishable food for at least 3 days.
  • A battery powered or hand crank radio and a weather radio, with extra batteries.
  • Flashlight/Lanterns with extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Emergency whistle
  • Dust mask for each person to filter contaminated air, plastic sheeting and duct tape for creating a shelter at the disaster site. (i.e.: your home or cabin)
  • Wet wipes, garbage bags for personal sanitation
  • Tools needed to turn off utilities
  • Can opener to open non-perishable food
  • Local area maps
  • Chargers for cellphone (inverter or solar)

Also have a fireproof /waterproof, portable container that includes important family documents such as, but not limited to: insurance policies, identification and bank account records.  Keep your insurance agent’s contact information on a separate piece of paper as well as in your list of contacts on you cellular device.

If you suffer injuries from the result of severe weather or a tornado, seek medical treatment immediately.  Once you have determined everyone is okay, assess the damage.  If local authorities are requiring you to evacuate you should take your emergency kit and your important document container with you. If there isn’t time for retrieving these items, take your family and pets and get to safe shelter.  Your family and pets are most important and the other items can be located at a later date.

Once things calm down, you can then contact your insurance agent and begin the process of filing a claim. Take the time to read your policy to make sure you know what will be covered and what will not.

Download our free claims process tip sheet.
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By: Insurance Advisors, Inc.