It's severe weather in Minnesota, and even despite the forecast, things can go from bad to worse in an instant. Are you and your family prepared?

The National Weather Service and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety offer these thoughts and guidelines for staying safe during Minnesota's severe weather season.

Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas, compared with most other storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts for 30 minutes — but whatever their size, all thunderstorms are dangerous.  Lightning is one of weather's top killers.

Severe thunderstorms produce large hail or winds of at least 58 mph. Some wind gusts can exceed 100 mph and produce tornado-like damage. That’s why many communities will sound their outdoor sirens for damaging straight-line winds. When a severe thunderstorm threatens, stay inside a strong structure. Mobile home occupants should go to a more permanent structure.

Hail

Hail is product of thunderstorms that causes nearly $1 billion in damage every year. Most hail is about pea-sized. Much of it is the size of baseballs, and it can reach grapefruit-size. Large hail stones fall faster than 100 mph and have been known to kill people.

Lightning

Every thunderstorm produces lightning! Lightning kills an average of 47 Americans each year. Hundreds more are severely injured.

  • No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
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Wireless Weather Emergency Alerts

In weather emergencies, warnings can save lives. But traditional warning methods such as television, radio and outdoor sirens don’t always reach everyone. Emergency officials now have a new way to send warnings directly to cell phones in affected areas — Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs).

These short messages may look like a text message, but unlike texts, which are sent directly to your phone number, these warnings will be broadcast to all phones within range of designated cell towers.

The alerts will tell you the type of warning, the affected area, and the duration. You’ll need to turn to other sources, such as television or your NOAA All-Hazards radio, to get more detailed information about what is happening and what actions you should take.

While WEAs can be disabled, the National Weather Service strongly encourages all residents to keep all WEAs enabled on your cell phone so you will be alerted in the event of a weather emergency.

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