Hennepin County unveils new lightning sensors
In the spring and summer the weather can change in a Minnesota minute. Blue skies can quickly give way to angry storm clouds that spawn tornadoes.

"We are getting where we get more and more tornadoes every single year," said Sarah Karel, a weather forecaster for Hennepin County Emergency Management. "The state of Minnesota actually averages 30 tornado touchdowns every year."

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, forecasters and first responders want residents to be prepared just in case they get caught in turbulent weather.

"Now is the time to start dusting off your family plans on what are you going to do if there is severe weather," Karel said. "What do you do at home? What do you do if you are at the grocery store?"

Every city in the northwest suburbs has a game plan for stormy weather and can spring into action when it happens.

"We can scale up pretty quickly," said Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman. "We've got mutual aid agreements with all the cities in the county. We have mutual aid with all counties. We have a statewide mutual aid system."

Cities like Brooklyn Park prepare for tornadoes, straight line winds, hail and any other possible scenarios.

"We've done a lot of work over the years to prepare for a tornado or straight line event," Prillaman said. "We've had some history of that over the past several decades, several events here in Brooklyn Park."

New lightning sensors

Lightning can be lethal too. It causes approximately 100 deaths a year, which is more than tornadoes.

"Lightning is what I would consider an underrated hazard," Karel said. "Every single time there is a thunderstorm there is lighting, there's not always a tornado."

Hennepin County Emergency Management now has a lightning detection station that was unveiled this spring. The high-tech gadgets and sensors are supposed to detect lightning quicker.

"Hopefully we can get the word out this summer of when there is a potential for lightning," Karel said. "Hopefully get people inside to stay safer during severe weather."

There are 266 tornado sirens in Hennepin County. On Thursday, at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., all of those sirens will go off as part of a test. When you hear tornado sirens the best place to go is your basement, or to a room that is as far away from windows as possible.

Eric Nelson



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