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Trained weather spotters keeping a close eye on a severe storm with visible rotation near Alberta Highway 28 in Stevens County in 2012. (Amanda Hill/Submitted Photo)

2013 could have active severe weather season

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News Morris,Minnesota 56267 http://www.morrissuntribune.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/19/0329/0330.n.mst.severeweather-we.jpg?itok=u3XX9iCM
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2013 could have active severe weather season
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

MORRIS – Although 2012 was an unusually quiet year for tornados and damaging winds in the upper Midwest region, it was an active season for much of Stevens County.

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While it's still early to look at trends for the upcoming severe weather season, some indications show the region could expect a more active season.

In advance of Severe Weather Awareness Week and a local training for severe weather spotters next weekend, we'll offer a recap on the 2012 season, a look at what Stevens County residents can expect in 2013 and share resources for staying informed about severe weather events in the community.

2012 severe weather season kicked off strong

Mother Nature wasted little time in kicking off the 2012 severe weather season for Stevens County; ironically, she did so on the same day as the local weather spotter training class that was held in the area on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Morris.

Shortly after the class had concluded, the area was hit with a round of tornadoes, hail and very heavy rainfall. A confirmed EF-0 tornado touched down in a farm field in rural Everglade Township just northwest of the town of Chokio. The same storms then went on to produce hail and funnel clouds to the east near Donnelly as well as producing another EF-0 tornado in neighboring Swift and Chippewa counties near Milan.

Other significant local severe weather events in 2012 included a widespread damaging wind and large hail event on Father’s Day, June 17, and two very significant and damaging large hail events in August. One occurred on the afternoon of Aug. 15, producing golf ball to tennis ball sized hail and strong winds near Morris and Donnelly. The other occurred in the early afternoon hours of Aug. 23, where golf ball sized hail had fallen for over 20 minutes and resulted in significant crop, vehicle and structural damage near and southwest of Hancock.

Looking ahead to 2013

So what can we expect this year? At this point it is really anyone’s guess as to exactly how the severe weather season will unfold. Long range forecast model data and current climate pattern trends are suggesting a more normal to active severe weather season when compared to 2012.  

This is largely due in part to northern states staying much cooler, longer into the spring and the southern states becoming warm very quickly and remaining that way through the early summer. This could keep the main storm track parked up over Minnesota and North and South Dakota, potentially increasing the chance for severe weather.

Staying informed in Stevens County

Many new and useful information gathering tools and personal alerting resources are available to receive severe weather alerts as well as other critical emergency information for this spring 2013.

On a local level, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management currently utilizes an advanced Emergency Alert Notification System that sends out civil emergency notifications and significant severe weather alerts via phone, text message (SMS), pagers, fax, teletype and email.

This notification system is specifically designed to warn the public of in-progress or imminent significant threats(s) to public safety and/or property within Stevens County.

In addition to this system, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office also utilizes social media and local radio stations for disseminating emergency information to the local public including a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StevensCountySheriffsOffice.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office has also been highly proactive in providing cutting edge severe weather spotter training as well as continuing education to its dispatchers, deputies, local first responders, fire fighters as well as other critical emergency services staff within the county.

This all means that the very best trained eyes and ears are out there closely and accurately scanning the skies when severe weather threatens the area.

Some new weather alerting information coming online from the National Weather Service for 2013 will include the new Impact Based Warnings System, which will utilize highly enhanced wording based on the severity of the type of weather and situation at hand.

For example, if a developing tornado is suggested by radar data, but has not yet been confirmed a tornado warning may still be issued but with less enhanced wording than a tornado that has been confirmed on the ground by law enforcement or trained weather spotters.

This new system’s goal is to help reduce the public complacency to severe weather warnings and reduce false alarms.

Last, but not least, you may want to consider purchasing a weather alert radio from your local electronics store. These radios automatically alert to severe weather warnings to your specific area or county. These radios typically cost between $40 and $70, a small price to pay for a lifesaving wake-up call during a late night tornado outbreak or straight line wind event.

Severe Weather Awareness Week

Minnesota’s Severe Weather Awareness Week will be held this year from April 15th – 19th with a different topic covered each day. The state-wide tornado drill day will be held on Thursday, April 18. On that date, Stevens County will sound outdoor warning sirens  during the 1 p.m. hour and again during the 6 p.m. hour to allow people, schools and businesses a chance to drill and think about what they would do if it were an actual tornado emergency.

If you have an interest in becoming a trained volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service or just interested in severe storms, you may want to attend a free local spotter training course being held locally on Saturday, April 6 at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. For more information on this course, contact Nick Elms at 763-516-1146.

Nick Elms is a local news and weather contributor.

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