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Metro Detroit

Agencies ask people to take shelter in storms

April 16, 2014

METRO DETROIT — Michigan residents are no strangers to weird weather, but a recent campaign is asking people to take the threat of severe weather more seriously. Severe Weather Awareness Week was April 6-12, right in time for the storm season.

Ron Leix, spokesman for the Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, explained that the awareness week was a project of the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness.

The committee includes partners from the Michigan State Police, the National Weather Service and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, he said.

Leix said residents should proactively move to prepare for spring and summer storms that could cause flooding or tornadoes.

“A lot of people don’t prepare for emergencies or disasters,” he said. “You should be prepared for the first 72 hours. Although emergency personnel may respond, they may not be able to get to you right away.”

One of the most important things that residents can do, he said, is to put together an emergency preparedness kit.

Such a kit should include a three-day water supply for each household member, adequate nonperishable food, pet supplies, medications, blankets, important family documents and a battery-powered, hand-crank radio, Leix said.

Cities around metro Detroit are also sharing tips on how to act during a storm. According to a statement from the city of Sterling Heights, people should stay inside until 30 minutes after they last hear thunder. Electrical devices should be unplugged, and pets should also stay indoors until the situation is back to normal, the city said.

If someone is inside a vehicle with a steel top, the vehicle’s frame could offer shielding from lightning so long as he or she isn’t in contact with metal, the city said.

In addition, residents are encouraged to listen to weather reports on the radio, or tune in to local station AM 1700.

After a storm, residents should do their best to clear their property of fallen branches, trees or other woody debris, according to the city. People should keep a distance of at least 25 feet from downed power, phone or cable lines. Standing water should be avoided, too, since it can conduct electricity.

Tom Jones, supervisor for Hazel Park’s Department of Public Works, echoed these tips and added that the city stands prepared with barricades to block off downed wires, and trucks, super-trucks and chainsaws to clean away fallen debris after a storm.

“We’ve had some bad weather in the past,” Jones said. “About three years ago, the north end of town got hit really hard by strong winds, with a lot of tree damage, vehicle damage, this and that. We work with the police and fire to handle down wires. If it’s a tree issue, they call DPW; if there are power lines down, we notify Edison or the Fire Department. We barricade and tape the area off, and then we have volunteer groups like the (Mobile Communication Support Unit) stay with the wires until DTE shows up.”

Jones said foul weather is not to be underestimated.

“That large storm (several years back) took a month to clean up. Some roads, you couldn’t drive down; it looked like a hurricane had gone through,” Jones said. “But as a department, we’re always ready.”

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