Weather Forecast


Twister tutorial: Don't let the myths about tornadoes fool you

You've no doubt heard the stories regarding tornadoes - they don't strike big cities; they can't cross rivers and lakes; they're attracted to trailer parks. The fact is tornadoes can strike anywhere, including the northwoods.

Last summer Bemidji residents were startled by tornado sirens. On July 23 weather spotters reported a tornado on the ground northeast of the Turtle River area. The first Minnesota tornado of 2011 touched down in St. Michael on Tuesday. Minnesota led the nation in 2010 with 145 reported tornadoes (including 48 on June 17) - blowing away second-place Texas, which reported 105 tornadoes.

The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks is responsible for issuing severe weather watches and warnings. However, it is the on-duty patrol sergeant who is responsible for determining when conditions warrant sounding the warning sirens in the city of Bemidji, according to Christopher Muller, Beltrami County Assistant Emergency Management Director. Muller said warning sirens outside of the city are sounded at the discretion of on-duty communications officers.

The sirens in Bemidji are activated whenever storms are anticipated to produce winds greater than 70 mph, when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, or when trained weather spotters observe a tornado. Muller emphasizes that outdoor warning sirens are intended to warn people who are outdoors and are not intended to provide warnings inside buildings.

A weather alert radio is a smart investment. They are inexpensive and modern units can be programmed to only alert you to local weather warnings.

Tom Siemers is the Pioneer's circulation manager. Email him at