Campus reminded to plan for severe weather

April 7, 2017 - In 2016, there were 16 tornadoes across the state of Michigan, which is near the state average of 15, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Severe weather in 2016 also was responsible for two deaths in Michigan, both due to lightning.

As part of Michigan Severe Weather Awareness week, April 16-22, university officials would like to remind members of the campus community about important information to help plan for and respond to various weather situations.

Local and state emergency management officials are asking Michiganders to take action to prepare by participating in a statewide tornado drill at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19. While the Ann Arbor campus is not conducting drill activities that day, we ask all members of our community to take time to identify the lowest interior space to take cover during a tornado. If a basement does not exist, find an interior hallway away from windows, doors and outside walls.

EMERGENCY BROADCASTERS

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In 2016, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus earned the NWS StormReady designation. The program is designed to help cities, counties and organizations implement procedures to reduce the potential for disastrous weather-related consequences.

“We hope the StormReady designation not only positively affects our preparedness during a weather emergency, but also works to increase community awareness and safety,” said Andy Burchfield, U-M’s director of Emergency Management.

In Michigan, tornadoes occur most frequently between April and July. However, tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, as was shown in 2015 when Michigan experienced its first-ever December tornado in Wayne County. As one of nature’s most violent storms, tornadoes can devastate homes and property in just seconds. The average lead time for tornadoes to develop is 10 to 15 minutes, which means citizens need to be ready to react quickly when a warning is issued.

Community members are encouraged to follow these additional safety tips from the Division of Public Safety and Security and College of Engineering's Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department:

  • Sign up for UM Emergency Alerts. Messages are delivered when warnings for a tornado or winds of 75 mph or greater have been issued for Washtenaw County. The UM Emergency Alert system delivers urgent messages via text, phone calls, email, U-M Gateway, DPSS website, Twitter, the Michigan App and digital signage. In the event of short-term emergency conditions (lasting no longer than two calendar days) due to severe weather, natural disaster, major utility failures or other unforeseen circumstances, the University may declare an Emergency Reduction in Operations. Faculty and staff should familiarize themselves with this policy, which reflects the high value the university places on its faculty, staff and students.
  • Know the difference between a storm "watch" and a storm '"warning." A storm "watch" means that conditions are favorable to produce severe weather. A storm "warning" means that severe weather, such as a thunderstorm or tornado, has been detected in the area and people should seek immediate shelter to protect themselves.
  • If you are outdoors and see lightning, or hear thunder or outdoor warning sirens, then you are likely within striking distance of a storm. It’s important to seek shelter indoors within a sturdy building or vehicle until 30 minutes following the last lightning flash and monitor local media outlets for official information.

    When warnings are issued for tornadoes or wind speeds of 75 mph or greater, the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County will activate the outdoor sirens. Additionally, the city tests the sirens the second Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m, while the county tests at noon the first Saturday of each month, March through October.

    The city of Ann Arbor sirens are intended to be heard by those outdoors throughout the city, including the U-M campus, to warn people to take indoor shelter. Typically, the county sirens are not audible in most on-campus locations.
  • The safest shelter for these severe storms is an interior hallway or small interior room on the lowest level of the building, away from windows and glass.

When severe weather strikes, strike back by moving your activities to a safe, indoor location.