From the Office of Campus Safety: Preparing for severe weather

Author: Carol C. Bradley

tornado stock photo

From the Office of Campus Safety:

As we enter March, the onset of warmer weather will initiate a transition to spring and summer’s severe weather patterns. Like much of the mid-west, Indiana falls within an area that is prone to tornado activity. It is therefore important to be familiar with the terms associated with severe weather, what actions to take in the case of a tornado, and to understand what communications to expect.

Watches & Warnings

A severe thunderstorm watch means conditions are favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms.

A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when severe thunderstorms are indicated by weather radar or reported by trained weather spotters in the field.

A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions are favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes in the local area. Individuals should remain vigilant in case conditions worsen and be prepared to seek shelter in the event a warning is issued.

A tornado warning is issued when the threat of a tornado is imminent, meaning that a tornado has either been spotted in the area or indicated on Doppler radar. If a tornado warning is issued, you should seek shelter immediately. If you are inside, seek cover in the lowest level of the building or in an interior corridor or room away from windows. If you are outside, try to find shelter in a building.

Lightning annually represents one of the single greatest causes of weather-related deaths in the U.S.; however lightning is not a criterion for the issuance of a severe weather warning. If you observe lightning or hear thunder, seek shelter indoors until the thunderstorms move away from the campus.


When a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, the St. Joseph County Civil Defense tornado warning system will activate the outdoor campus siren. For tornadoes, the siren issues a steady tone for three to five minutes. In addition, the University will also issue an ND Alert notifying the campus of the threat. Once the National Weather Service lifts this warning, a second, “All Clear” ND Alert message will be sent. Additional all clear signals are issued by the National Weather service via radio and television announcements.


To ensure the functionality of the tornado warning system, county siren tests are made at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month and consist of a one-minute steady tone, one minute of silence and a one-minute wailing tone.

To prepare for the upcoming tornado season, Indiana has declared March 18 -24, 2012 Severe Weather Awareness Week. As part of statewide testing, St. Joseph County will conduct two additional Tornado Warning Tests using the county siren system on Wednesday, March 21st. The first tornado warning test will be conducted at 10:15 a.m. A second test will be conducted that evening at 7:35 p.m. As this date approaches, we will send reminders of these tests.