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Residents encouraged to make plans for tornadoes as season approaches

The good news, says Dave W. Konshok, Hubbard County Emergency management director, is Hubbard County has had very few tornadoes in the past. "The bad news is they've been all around us." During Severe Weather Week Monday through Friday, April 21-...

The good news, says Dave W. Konshok, Hubbard County Emergency management director, is Hubbard County has had very few tornadoes in the past.

"The bad news is they've been all around us."

During Severe Weather Week Monday through Friday, April 21-25, the emphasis is on tornado drills at 1:45 and 6:55 p.m. Thursday.

Konshok encourages area schools, businesses, government offices and health care organizations to review and practice sheltering plans during the afternoon drill.

The second drill is voluntary and allows families to practice their plans at home and second-shift workers to participate at their work places.

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Konshok suggests families prepare in two ways: 1) take the time to decide on a disaster plan and 2) put together an emergency supply kit.

Families should have a disaster plan similar to a plan for a fire. They should decide were they are going to go, choosing a designated room, preferably a basement or interior room with no windows, such as a bathroom, utility room or closet.

A disaster plan also should anticipate communications, how family members will get in touch with each other in a disaster, Konshok said. Regular telephone lines may be down and cell telephone signals may be flooded. If either is accessible, however, Konshok suggests choosing a friend or relative who lives out of the area and having each family member contact the person who can act as a clearinghouse for information.

Families also should prepare an emergency supply kit, placing items in a tote or cardboard box.

According to Konshok, the basics are one gallon of water per person per day for three days; three days' worth of nonperishable food; a first aid kit (either purchased or put together at home); a flashlight and cash or cash cards.

In an emergency, it is important to bring along any family member's medications a well, Konshok said. He suggests finding a way to remind a family member to be responsible to make sure they're included if you have to leave your residence.

The tote or box should be in a location where it can easily be tossed in the car trunk, he added.

Another tip, he suggests, is refreshing the water supply at least every six months.

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"A lot is common sense, but you have to sit down and think about it," Konshok said. "In a disaster, it takes time for help to arrive and get set up."

Finally, Konshok suggests paying attention to the weather and having a battery-powered or hand crank radio and extra batteries for both.

For more detailed planning suggestions, go to www.ready.gov .

Myths and facts

Myth: "It can't happen here in Hubbard County." Fact: Severe weather including thunderstorms, hail, straight-line winds, lightning and yes, tornadoes, have happened, can happen and likely will happen here.

Myth: "Tornadoes are a 'southern' thing (i.e. southern United States)." Fact: While this isn't the famous "Tornado Alley" of the mid- to southern-Great Plains (i.e. Kansas, Oklahoma, etc.), tornadoes have occurred in all 50 states, including Minnesota.

Myth: "Tornadoes are a 'southern' thing (i.e. southern Minnesota)." Fact: In 2007 in Minnesota, the National Weather Service reported a total of 18 confirmed tornadoes, 14 of which occurred in northwestern Minnesota. Since 1950, the top two Minnesota counties with the most tornadoes are Polk County (cities of East Grand Forks and Crookston) with 52 tornadoes and Ottertail County (city of Fergus Falls) with 46 tornadoes.

Myth: "Minnesota doesn't get the 'killer' tornadoes like other places." Fact: Every tornado is a potential killer. Wind speeds of 86 mph or greater - the National Weather Service definition for a tornado - are more than enough to be deadly in their effects.

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Myth: "I live in town, so I'm safe since tornadoes don't hit cities or towns." Fact: An EF-2 tornado (with winds between 111-135 mph) struck downtown Atlanta March 14, 2008, killing one man, injuring 30 and blowing out windows on downtown high rises including the CNN headquarters building. Within the past year, the cities of Northwood, ND and Greenburg, KS suffered devastating damage from direct hits by tornadoes. In Greenburg, the percentage of town buildings and homes damaged or destroyed was nearly 100 percent.

Myth: "These storms are so terrible, there's nothing I can do to prepare." Fact: Absolutely not true. In fact, disaster research compiled over the last half century has consistently shown that even modest preparation - making a disaster plan, building a disaster take-along kit - can substantially improve your chances for survival, reduce the extent of injuries and damage, and decrease your recovery time should a disaster occur.

Myth: "You're on your own - our government, schools and public and private businesses and organizations are ill-prepared for disasters and won't be there for us after disasters." Fact: Also not true. Though there's always room for improvement, the fact is the United States as a whole, and Minnesota in particular, takes disaster preparation and recovery seriously, both officially (e.g. government offices) and unofficially (e.g. through volunteer organizations).

On an individual and family or group level, Minnesotans have a proud history of spontaneously and generously helping each other during crisis.

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