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Summer weather warnings

Randy Everding said it was fortunate that no one had moved into a mobile home he'd set up on his property near Medina when it was struck by a severe storm on July 11, 2016.

Randy Everding said it was fortunate that no one had moved into a mobile home he'd set up on his property near Medina when it was struck by a severe storm on July 11, 2016.

"We had a security camera on it," said Everding, a Medina area resident. "First there was light rain, then a dust cloud and then the trailer was gone."

The storm destroyed Everding's trailer and caused downed trees and other damage throughout Medina and the surrounding area.

If anyone had been in the home, he or she could have been injured or killed if he or she had not heard a storm warning and moved to a safer place, Everding said.

"Last year made me more of a believer," he said, referring to the importance of storm warnings.

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Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager and 911 coordinator, said this week has been proclaimed Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week to remind people of the importance of summer weather warnings.

"It is the same drill," he said, referring to the information presented during the week. "But we're not the same group of people."

The week is also a chance for emergency personnel to test some of the equipment that is used during summer storm warnings, Bergquist said.

Officials plan on activating sirens in Jamestown, Medina, Streeter, Buchanan and Cleveland at about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. The activation is part of a statewide test of communications systems that distribute information to officials and radio stations if a real storm watch or warning was issued. The sirens will sound for about three minutes, but will not be activated if weather conditions include the potential for actual severe weather.

"We want to give the people an idea how the sirens work," Bergquist said. "This also gives us a chance to test the equipment."

The Code Red system that notifies people through their cellphones of severe weather does not activate during a test, but the National Weather Service radio alert system does, he said.

The test and the week are all in preparation for the upcoming summer weather season, Bergquist said. In the summer of 2016, officials issued 18 severe weather warnings in Stutsman County. In 2015, there were only 10.

This year fewer warnings may be issued, according to Daryl Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network.

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"Overall, North Dakota looks to be drier this year than last year," he said. "Much of our rain comes in severe thunderstorms. So drier means less severe weather."

Ritchison said North Dakota averages about 20 confirmed tornadoes each year. The number of confirmed tornadoes seems to be increasing, but that trend could be because of more active weather spotters and better radar equipment.

"The radar upgrades a couple of years ago give us better detection of tornadoes, wind and hail," he said. "Plus we have a lot of storm chasers out there. It is a positive to have a lot more eyes out there."

The better radar equipment also improves the forecasts of a storm's intensity and path. That information is used to issue the watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.

"We can't stop it," Ritchison said, referring to the actual severe weather. "But advance warning is good. The loss of life (from severe summer storms) has dropped significantly over the years with the better warning systems."

Related Topics: WEATHER
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