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Severe Weather Awareness

Extreme Heat

Do you take extra steps when the forecast calls for excessive heat?

How do you prepare?

What are some common things to do and avoid when the temperatures rise?

Take a closer look at the steps and small actions you can take to protect yourself during excessive heat.

  • A critical part of heat safety is knowing the signs of heat related illness. Do you know the signs of heat related illness?
  • “Look before you lock” is another weather safety phrase you must remember.
    • The inside temperatures of your vehicle can become deadly in minutes, even in low temperatures.
  • Your pets are also impacted by rising temperatures. Remember these tips going forward and keep them safe as well!


During extremely hot and humid weather, your body's ability to cool itself is challenged. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and you or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness. It is important to know the symptoms of excessive heat exposure and the appropriate responses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of warning signs and symptoms of heat illness, and recommended first aid steps. Some of these symptoms and steps are listed below.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.

  • Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen and heavy sweating.
  • First Aid: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water. 

    Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than 1 hour.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness or tiredness, cool, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, fainting,
  • First Aid: Move person to a cooler environment, preferably a well air conditioned room. Loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths or have person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water. If person vomits more than once,

    Seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits, symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour

Heat Stroke

  • Symptoms: Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness.
  • First Aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath. Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures. Do NOT give fluids.

Using a fan to blow air in someone’s direction may actually make them hotter if heat index temperatures are above the 90s. For more information on all of these heat related illnesses, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site.


Communities across South Dakota and Minnesota have been impacted by tornadoes.

Use today to make an action plan and use it when tornado warnings are issued!

Of all the many dangerous weather hazards, tornadoes are one of the most powerful and destructive.

Although the details of their formation are still being researched, we do know the general steps.

Watch this video for a quick science lesson.

What’s a tornado “watch”?

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, take inventory of your supplies and check your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

What’s a tornado “warning”?

  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

What’s a tornado “emergency”?

  • Tornado Emergency: Seek Shelter Immediately! A tornado emergency is the National Weather Service’s highest alert level. It is issued when a violent tornado has touched down in the watch area. There is a severe threat to human life and property, with catastrophic damage confirmed. Immediately seek refuge in the safest location possible. Call friends and family who are within the watch area to ensure they are aware of the situation. If you see a tornado approaching, do not attempt to outrun it in a vehicle; shelter in place. Once safe, be sure to monitor your local forecast for the latest updates.

It’s important to know the differences as we move into severe weather season. 

Tornadoes can be extremely dangerous. Safe places include storm shelters and basements — but if not available, an interior room without windows can also be protective.

If you receive a tornado warning, take shelter immediately!

Where do you stay safe if a tornado warning is issued, and you’re not at home?

Flood and Flooding

Flooding and flash flooding is something we’ve certainly experienced over the past years.

  • Are you prepared?
  • How do we raise the awareness of flash flood and flooding potential?

This severe weather season, do your part and do not drive into flooded roads!

Flooding can be difficult to see during the day, it’s impossible to see at night. Remember this!

  • Flash Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
    Flash Flood Warnings are changing to an impact-based format to improve public response. Read the flood warning fact sheet.
  • Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
  • Flood Advisory: Be Aware! A Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
  • Flood Watch: Be Prepared! A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.

Lightning and Hail

Knowing what hazards thunderstorms can bring and how to prepare for those hazards is a key element of staying safe during severe weather season.

Hail, high winds, tornadoes, flash flooding and lightning can all impact us when severe storms strike.

Here is a closer look at how to take action when these severe weather elements are possible!

  • When you’re at the lake and severe weather threatens, know that a camper is the last place you want to be.
  • Be sure to have a way to receive warnings, and know where a safe shelter is located.
  • Should you seek shelter from severe storms under an overpass?
    • NO! They are not considered safe storm shelters, and you could put yourself and others in further danger.
  • Do you have a severe weather safety kit?
    • If not, it’s important to gather these items ahead of time and put them in a place you can get to quickly should severe weather threaten you.

In 2022, 19 people died due to lightning. DON'T BECOME A STATISTIC! When thunder roars, go indoors! #sdwx

It doesn't take a severe thunderstorm to be a dangerous thunderstorm. All it takes is one lightning strike to become a hazardous situation for yourself or those around you.



  • BB-size (~ 1/8 inch)
  • Pea-size (~ 1/4 inch)
  • Marble-size (~ 1/2 inch)
  • Dime, Nickel, Penny (~ 3/4 inch)


  • Quarter (~ 1 inch)
  • Half-Doller (~ 1 1/4 inch)
  • Walnut (~ 1 1/2 inch)
  • Golf ball (~ 1 3/4 inch)

Significant Severe

  • Hen Egg (~ 2 inch)
  • Tennis Ball (~ 2 1/2 inch)
  • Baseball (~ 2 3/4 inch)
  • Grapefruit (~ 4 inch)
  • Softball (~ 4 1/2 inch)

Weather Alerts and Warnings

Ask yourself these questions today.

  1. What’s the difference between a watch and warning?
  2. How will you receive a warning?

Being prepared for severe weather season means understanding your risk.

Severe weather outlooks are meant to raise your awareness to the potential of severe storms. Do you know the differences between a severe weather watch and severe weather warning?

  • A watch means “be ready to take action”. 
  • A warning means “TAKE ACTION”. 

There are many ways to receive weather watches and warnings.

  • You should not put all your eggs into one basket when it comes to being aware.
  • Have multiple methods of getting a warning, here are a few examples!
    • A great way to stay weather informed and prepared is by following your local office on Twitter.
    • As we continue severe weather awareness week, here are the offices that serve South Dakota.

What do you do when severe weather threatens after dark?

  • If storms are in the forecast, DO NOT go to bed unprepared. Have at least one source to receive warnings and alerts. Multiple sources are even better!
  • Some may be relying on sirens as their only way to receive weather warnings.
    • HOWEVER, outdoor warning sirens are only meant to warn those OUTDOORS, not INDOORS.
    • This is why it's critical to always have MULTIPLE ways to receive a severe weather warning. 
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts will alert your phone if you are located in a: Tornado warning or Severe t-storm warning with 80+ mph winds or 2.75 inch hail