BROOKFIELD -- The National Weather Service issued a mock tornado watch at 1 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. across the entire state of Wisconsin Thursday, April 19th. For schools and businesses, it was a signal to practice taking cover, and for families, it was an opportunity to make sure a plan is set in case of severe weather. For one community, it was a drill that almost didn't happen.
For the first time ever, all radio, TV and cable stations across Wisconsin participated in the drill, and NOAA Weather Radios (also known as Emergency Weather Radios) were tested as well. It was all a part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.
Students at Dixon Elementary School in Brookfield joined students across the state on the ground in the school's hallways Thursday afternoon. "The main thing is prevention. Letting our students know that if there is severe weather coming, making sure they do take cover and take it serious. It's just a drill, but we want to make sure if something were to happen, we are prepared," Dixon Elementary School Principal Jeanne Siegenthalar said.
The sirens in Brookfield did not sound during Thursday's drill, which led to confusion for some, especially because Brookfield leaders have recently discussed getting rid of the siren alert system. "I got a call from a resident who was concerned that her siren was working, and I assured her that it was, and that we test them every month," Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said.
In March, the city of Brookfield was mandated by the FCC to upgrade its sirens for the price tag of $100,000. That cost made some question even having the sirens at all. "Money has been allocated by both the Finance Committee and the Brookfield Common Council and we expect the upgrade to take place this fall," Ponto said.
In fact, the sirens won't be the only thing to alert the Brookfield community. A pending upgrade to the city's website will also enable email and text alerts.
Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually. In 2011, there were 38 tornadoes confirmed by the NWS -- the fourth highest on record. The peak tornado in Wisconsin is from April through August. However, tornadoes can occur any time, like the January 2008 storms near Kenosha.
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