Statewide tornado drill slated for Thursday - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Statewide tornado drill slated for Thursday

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Tornado drills are a staple during spring weeks, as weather conditions make severe weather more likely. But this year -- a few changes are in store for the statewide drill.

"It's only a test but it's a true end to end test where we're trying all the electronic equipment including emergency weather radios," said Tod Pritchard, who works with Wisconsin Emergency Management. "If you have an emergency weather radio, it'll go off as well."

Starting at 1:00PM Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service will issue a mock tornado watch for all of Wisconsin. That means TV and radio stations will cut out of their regularly scheduled programming for about a minute. During that time, a message on the screen will remind viewers -- this is just a test.

"It's all about hearing the warning and responding to the warning," said Merrill police chief Ken Neff. "That's what it comes down to."

Neff knows a lot about being prepared after a tornado hit Merrill last April. In the past year, the city has installed two new tornado sirens to help spread the word when severe weather strikes.

"I think we're better prepared because of that incident," said Neff. "You take something like that incident, some adversity to get you thinking about how you respond to it and it makes you better prepared."

"We're into tornado season already," said Pritchard. "It's a great time to test all our systems but to talk to your family about what happens, where do we go, where do we find protection."

At 1:45PM, a second alert will start. This one will be for a tornado warning. The drill will sound the same over the airwaves -- lasting for about a minute and then going back to programming as usual. It's a simple test but one weather experts say is well worth the time.

"I feel proud that here in northcentral Wisconsin, we've been able to educate people and have them well-prepared to stay safe in any type of severe weather but particularly for a tornado," said Newsline 9 chief meteorologist Justin Loew.

"In an average tornado, you only have about 13 minutes to react to the warning and to seek shelter," said Pritchard. "So listen, act and live."

Good advice, no matter what the weather.

Weather experts said you don't have to take shelter during this test. But it can be a good time to talk about what you and your family would do in case of an emergency.

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