Michigan residents face hazardous weather conditions numerous times each year. These hazards range from strong winds to heavy snow to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. It is important for people to know what hazards are possible so they can take the appropriate precautions.
Severe thunderstorms are one of the greatest threats that Michigan residents face because they can develop rapidly causing abrupt changes to weather conditions. Severe thunderstorms can produce strong straight line winds over 60 mph, large hail, flooding rains, frequent lightning and tornadoes. Southeast Michigan averages 30 to 40 thunderstorm days per year with the most deaths and injuries resulting from straight line winds.
The National Weather Service issues severe thunderstorm watches and warnings so that the public can seek shelter before storms arrive. Watches are issued up to six hours before storms are expected while warnings will be issued for a ten to sixty minute window when storms are imminent in the area. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued for hail larger than one inch in diameter or winds greater than 58 mph.
When a severe thunderstorm warning is in effect, seek shelter in a sturdy building away from windows. It is important to continue monitoring weather conditions even after a warning has been issued for upgrades to a tornado warning.
Michigan averages sixteen tornadoes per year with the greatest number of tornadoes occurring during the warm months from April to September. Tornadoes are possible during any hour of the day or night and are even possible during the winter months under rare conditions. A tornado warning is issued when the Doppler radar indicates that rotation in a thunderstorm is descending towards the ground or when a reliable tornado report is received.
When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter immediately! Do not call the police department. Wait in your designated shelter area through the duration of the warning.
During a tornado warning, individuals should take shelter in:
- The first floor or basement of a multi-story building (if time permits safe access)
- Individual floor shelter areas as designated by the tornado shelter signs (found on every floor of every building)
- Keep away from glass windows and outside walls. Avoid areas with wide roof spans.
Early Outdoor Warning System
The early outdoor warning system is activated when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning or there is potential for damaging winds at or greater than 70 miles per hour. All sirens are activated by the transmission of an RF signal with a tone alert. OU's system is capable of receiving activation signals transmitted by the Oakland County Homeland Security Division or, if necessary, the system can be activated manually by OU Police.
When the system is activated, a three-minute tone indicates a tornado has been sighted or strongly indicated on radar and/or storms with 70 mph or greater winds are in the area. Seek shelter immediately and listen to radio or television for more information. The system is designed to alert community members who are outside but individuals inside buildings may hear the siren if they are close to the siren location.
The siren is routinely tested at 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month during tornado season.
In addition to the siren activation, OUPD will contact the following offices in the event of a severe weather/tornado warning:
- Police Command Staff & Emergency Managment Staff
- University Housing (administration during normal business hours; duty staff after hours)
- President’s Office
- Facilities Management – Work Control
- Golf Course
- Lowry Center
- John Dodge House
- Central Heating Plant
- Meadow Brook Hall
It is never safe to be outdoors during thunderstorms and it does not have to be raining to be struck by lightning. Open structures, such as picnic shelters or the Athletic Dome (AD) do not offer protection from severe weather.
Flooding is responsible for the most fatalities of any weather-related hazard nationwide. Rushing water can be extremely powerful and can wash out roads. A car may float in only six to twelve inches of water, causing a motorist to lose control of their vehicle. Never drive into water-covered roads.
Hazards threatening Michigan residents during the winter months include strong winds, heavy snow, dangerous wind chills, extreme cold, and ice jams on local rivers. The National Weather Service issues watches, warnings, and advisories to alert the public to the threat of dangerous conditions.