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Tornado and Severe Weather Safety Week: What to expect from Stormtracker 18

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Severe storms affect Western Wisconsin every year, and the Stormtracker 18 Weather Team is always ready to bring you what you need to know when they strike. While most severe weather happens during the afternoon and evening hours, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can strike any time.

There are two main types of alerts for severe weather: watches and warnings. A watch (tornado, severe thunderstorm, or flash flood) means that conditions are favorable for that type of threat in the next couple hours. For a watch, you should be prepared to act on a moment's notice and be within 1 minute of a shelter (in case of tornado or severe thunderstorm).

A warning means that severe weather is already happening or is imminent. Take action immediately. For tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, seek shelter in a sturdy building on the lowest floor in a small, interior room.

There is one more type of threat that the Stormtracker 18 Weather Team hopes is never issued. It's called a Tornado Emergency, which is a step up from the already serious Tornado Warning. For a Tornado Emergency to be issued, there needs to be spotter confirmation of not only a tornado on the ground, but a large and destructive tornado. That large, destructive tornado also has to be tracking towards a populated area for the Emergency to be issued.

There are many ways to receive weather alerts, and you should never rely on just one method. Outdoor warning sirens are perhaps the worst method as they are not designed to be heard indoors (unless you live really close to one) and offer no additional information to the type or location of threat.

Make sure to check that your cell phone is receiving wireless emergency alerts (WEA). This is something that you do not need to sign up for, but can opt out of in your smarphone's settings. It's strongly encouraged to not do this. You can check this in your phone's settings. You'll only receive Tornado Warnings and Flash Flood Warnings in this part of the country, so it shouldn't be often that it goes off. Also note it will only sound the alert if phone is not silenced. It will only vibrate in silence mode. Additionally, you won't be alerted this way for severe thunderstorm warnings or any watch.

The best way to be alerted is with a NOAA Weather Radio. They will alert you with a loud siren designed to wake you up in the middle of the night for life-threatening weather warnings. Cheaper models run $20 to $40, but more expensive models allow you to program what alerts you want the siren to sound for, and which to silence.

Our free WQOW Stormtracker 18 Weather App will alert you to severe weather, and allows you to choose what alerts will both show up on your lock screen, and which ones make noise or voice alerts and which ones show up silently.

TV and radio are where you'll get the most information, but its likely not the first place you'll hear about a warning.

The Stormtracker 18 Weather Team will break into programming on News 18 for all tornado warnings, as well as most flash flood and severe thunderstorm warnings.

Yes, this does mean that popular shows or sports events may be interrupted by our meteorologists. For one, News 18 is required to broadcast life-saving information during disasters. Technology does not exist to only broadcast to those in harms way, so all alerts have to be broadcast to the entire viewing area. Secondly, the lives and livelihood of yourself, your friends, and your neighbors is more important than entertainment. Most shows are available online.

Matt Schaefer

Matt Schaefer was promoted to Chief Meteorologist in July of 2019 and has been our evening meteorologist for News 18 since June of 2016. Prior to that, he was our Saturday meteorologist starting in September 2014.

Matt was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He enjoys all the extremes that mother nature throws at the Badger State: from severe thunderstorms to blizzards to subzero temperatures.

Matt studied meteorology in the Midwest as well, earning his Bachelor’s of Science in Meteorology at Valparaiso University in Indiana. There, Matt was heavily involved in VUTV Weather, the Valpo student chapter of AMS/NWA, and VUSIT (Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team). He’s logged more than 20,000 miles chasing and studying severe storms all across the country and witnessed nine tornadoes including six in one day!

Matt describes himself as a Wisconsin boy at heart and enjoys cheering for the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Admirals just to name a few. He loves simply being outdoors and enjoys the Wisconsin wilderness especially in fall, and whitetail deer season!

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