WISCONSIN (WFRV) – A special week in April is spreading tornado and severe weather awareness in Wisconsin. But which days should you watch out for sirens and drills?

Weather officials say Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes a year, with peak tornado season from April to August. National Weather Service (NWS) confirms there were 41 tornados that touched down in 2021, with 10 coming from a single day in the month of December. They explain how tornadoes can occur at any time but are most frequent between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Last year in 2021, Gov. Tony Evers declared April 12-16 as awareness week, and several northeast Wisconsin counties heard a tornado siren going off twice throughout the day.

According to a release, Gov. Evers has proclaimed that this year the awareness campaign will run from Monday, April 4, to Friday, April 8, with statewide tornado drills scheduled for April 7.

If the drills don’t happen on that Thursday due to severe weather, the backup day will be the next day Friday, April 8. Any change in the date will be announced on the ReadyWisconsin website.

Officials say the schedule is as follows:

  • 1:45 p.m. – The NWS will start a mock tornado warning.
  • 2:00 p.m. – The mock tornado warning drill ends.
  • 6:45 p.m. – NWS will start a mock tornado warning for all of Wisconsin.
  • 7:00 p.m. – The mock tornado warning drill for the state will end.

The National Weather Service reminds everyone that a watch means all of the elements are there for a tornado to happen and a warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on weather radar. When you hear a warning, NWS urges you to move to a safe place immediately.

Changes to the 2022 warning drill

Weather officials say the Wisconsin drill no longer includes a test of the live Emergency Alert System and mock tornado watch/warning issued by the National Weather Service.

The ReadyWisconsin website reports that this means there will be no alerts triggered on weather radios and broadcast TV/radio stations (unless a station chooses to do so).

In addition, some communities may choose to test their outdoor warnings sirens during the designated drill times.

NOAA Weather Radio Tests

National Weather Service staff says they will run NOAA Weather Radio Tests during the 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. drill times, but explain that these tests will not sound an audible alert unless you are actively listening to a weather radio.

N.E. Wisconsin counties participating in the drills

Brown CountyWill hold off on Wednesday’s noon drill to participate in the two drills on Thursday. The county also has CodeRED, to send emergency messages to residents.
Calumet CountyThe Calumet County Sheriff’s Office reports sirens will only sound for the 1:45 p.m. drill.
Kewanee CountyOfficials will be using its mass emergency notification system, RaveAlart, for the drills. County staff also plans to send texts and calls to individuals who have registered with the RaveAlert system. To register, go to the Kewaunee County website and click on the red “Stay Informed!” button at the bottom of the home page.
The outdoor warning sirens will not be sounded in Kewaunee County on drill day since officials want to test this alternative method of communication.
Manitowoc CountyManitowoc County is participating in the Statewide Tornado Drill by activating tornado sirens countywide at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.
Oconto CountyOconto County Fire & Rescue says all outdoor sirens will be activated for the 1:45 p.m. drill.
Outagamie CountyOfficials say the outdoor warning sirens will be activated for both drills on Thursday.
Winnebago CountySent an announcement saying it will test its outdoor warning sirens twice on April 7.

What can you do to be safe?

Many organizers say the whole point of the Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week is to encourage everyone to take time before severe weather season begins to create or review their plans and emergency kits.

Some tips that were given to stay safe from severe weather include:

  • Creating an emergency plan and practicing it.
  • Having multiple ways to receive alerts about approaching severe weather.
  • If you have a mobile device, make sure it is enabled to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts.
  • Keep up to date on the daily forecast for your area.
  • Create an emergency kit for your home.

But where is the safest place to be for a tornado warning? The best place to go, if you have one, would be in the basement.

“Something as simple as having your bicycle helmet stored in your basement so that if that’s where you go during a tornado you could wear it. That might sound odd to some people but one of the most likely causes of being hurt during severe weather is damage to your head and your neck,” explained Brown County Emergency Management Director Lauri Maki.

“Wearing shoes, too. People might run to their basement and not have shoes on. Just little things to prepare yourself. If you have children, talk with them. Who would they call if you weren’t home?” he added.

If you don’t have a storm shelter, your safe place can be in an interior room – avoiding windows, doors, and outside walls and covering yourself with pillows if you have time. If you live in an apartment, then a stairwell or bathtub can serve as a good place to go.

If you are driving, safety officials say you should get out of your vehicle as soon as possible and if you can’t find shelter, get yourself into a ditch.

For more tips on severe weather preparedness and advice on creating your own emergency plan, click here.