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Are you prepared for severe weather?

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With a tornado already reported in the state this year, Minnesotans are again reminded about the dangers of spring and summer storms.

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Severe Weather Awareness week in Minnesota, which kicked off April 16, is a good time for families, schools and businesses to learn about weather warnings and practice what to do in the event of a severe storm.

"Your city or town may never have experienced a tornado, but that doesn't mean it can't or won't happen," said Kris Eide, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). "Preparing now can save lives during severe weather. Know where to go and what to do when warnings are issued and sirens sound."

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, statewide tornado drills will be held today, Thursday, at 1:45 and 6:55 p.m. to accommodate safety planning for schools, businesses, families and second-shift workers. Most of Minnesota's 87 counties will participate in the evening drill.

In real weather emergencies, Minnesotans can turn to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric (NOAA) weather radio broadcasts for watches, warnings and forecasts. A NOAA radio is particularly important for those who need extra time to react to bad weather. Details can be found on the Severe Weather website, along with video instructions on making an emergency kit for the home.

Starting with Severe Weather Awareness Week and continuing through the summer, the DPS severe weather website provides weather planning information, safety tips and data from the National Weather Service. Daily topics from April 16 through 20 include hail, straight-line winds, lightning, watches and warnings, emergency alert systems, flash floods, tornadoes and heat waves.

Last year tornadoes killed 551 people in the U.S. and so far this year 132 confirmed tornadoes have been reported around the country. The Minnesota tornado was reported near Elysian on March 19.

"Awareness and readiness are the keys to surviving severe weather," said Eide. "Educate yourself, make a plan, and practice it. There's no substitute for preparedness."

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