This tornado struck the Merrill area on April 10, 2011.
In "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail," author Bill Bryson writes about bear encounters and how an attack "doesn't happen often, but - and here is the absolutely salient point -once would be enough."
The same could be said about encounters with anything dangerous, such as tornadoes. It's rare to find yourself in the direct path of one, but once would be enough.
As part of their effort to prepare Wisconsinites if they do find themselves in the path of a tornado, or other dangerous conditions, Wisconsin Emergency Management, ReadyWisconsin and the National Weather Service have declared this week as Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week.
The theme for the week is "listen, act and live." The agencies are stressing that people pay attention to the weather around them as well as the warnings.
"Listening to warnings and seeking shelter immediately will save lives," they say in a news release.
The peak tornado season runs from April to August, and the state averages about 23 a year. Last year, the state saw four confirmed tornadoes, but the year before, 38 were confirmed.
Tornadoes can be especially scary. Unlike a hurricane that the weather service can track for days, even weeks, before it hits land, tornadoes often give little or no warning, dropping out of the sky and cutting a swath of destruction.
That's what makes the advice to listen, act and live so important. These severe storms can be unpredictable, so often it's better to act than to wait and see.
As part of the awareness week, a statewide tornado drill will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday. At that time the National Weather Service will issue a mock tornado watch, followed by a mock tornado warning at 1:45 p.m. Radio, television and cable providers as well as weather radios will broadcast the test. Some communities will activate their outdoor sirens.
The drill will end at 2 p.m. The drill will be delayed a day if there are sever storms expected in the state on Thursday.
As Wisconsin Emergency Management says, this would be "an ideal opportunity for schools, businesses and families to practice safe procedures for severe weather."
Part of the reason for doing the test is that NOAA weather radios can be activated only with a real tornado warning code. So to test whether your weather radio is working, it needs a real code. Plus, radio and TV alerts are also triggered by the code.
Some might mock such drills. But being prepared in fast-changing weather conditions can save lives. Tornadoes are rare; deaths from tornadoes are even more rare. It still pays to take the drills seriously and to instruct your children on the proper way to react to warnings. That preparation might save your life, or the life of a loved one, some day.
Listen, act and live
? Don't ignore watches and warnings.
? Listen and take action.
? Go to a safe place right away.
Watches and warnings
? Tornado watch: Severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are possible in your area. Be prepared to move to safety.
? Severe thunderstorm watch: Thunderstorms with large hail and damaging winds are possible. Be prepared to move to safety.
? Tornado warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Move to a safe place immediately.
? Severe thunderstorm warning: A thunderstorm with large hail and damaging winds has been reported or indicated by weather radar.
- Ready Wisconsin
On the Web
? ReadyWisconsin: readywisconsin.wi.gov/
? Wisconsin Emergency Management: emergencymanagement.wi.gov/
? National Weather Service: www.nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/index.shtml