The De Smet News this week has an article warning about tornadoes as the kick off to Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Although tornadoes can happen anywhere in the country, the Midwest is particularly susceptible. A tornado watch is when conditions are favorable for a tornado to occur. A tornado warning is when an actual tornado has been spotted. Many small towns, like Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and De Smet, South Dakota, have sirens which alert the town to possible problems. These sirens go off in a pattern of starting and stopping for a fire and in 1 steady blast to warn of a tornado. Most of these towns also have the sirens go off at set times during the day (9am, noon, & 5pm are the most common times, with the noon whistle being by far the most common). These time sirens are a single blast, a few minutes, but then quits. These whistles tell the community a common time.
Another typical sign of a coming tornado, during daylight hours, is a yellow-green cast to the sky. The most dangerous tornadoes occur at night or when it is extremely dark during day (they call these hidden by a strong rain storm, rain-wrapped).
As readers of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books know, tornadoes frequent the area. A more recent large storm was the 2001 F4 tornado that took out the neighboring town of Manchester, South Dakota, where Grace lived as a married woman. It made the cover of the April 2004 issue of “National Geographic” and was featured in the “Hunt for the Supertwister” episode of Nova.
South Dakota Emergency Management Director Cindy Bau urges everyone to be proactive and have a weather radio, especially when camping or at the lake. In case of a warning seek shelter. FEMA gives this advice for what to do during a tornado.
UPDATED April 11 2017: I added an updated link, fixed a typo, and reworked a couple of sentences to make them clearer.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.