Severe Weather Information

Winter Storm Definitions

FREEZING RAIN, FREEZING DRIZZLE means a coating of ice is expected. SNOW means a steady fall HEAVY SNOW means six or more inches expected in the next 12 hours, or eight or more inches in the next 24 hours. BLIZZARD means winds of at least 35 miles per hour and considerable falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing the visibility to less than one quarter mile. WINTER STORM WATCH: A winter storm is approaching or a strong potential exists for the development of a winter storm. WINTER STORM WARNING: A high probability exists for the occurrence of severe winter weather.

Be prepared.

  • Check battery-powered equipment (radio, lights and cooking equipment), food stock (items that do not require cooking or refrigeration), first aid kit and other supplies.
  • Dress for the season. Layers of protective clothing are more effective and efficient than single layers of thick clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Hoods should cover mouth to protect lungs from extremely cold air.
  • Be cautious of fire. Overheated stoves, heaters, furnaces and fireplaces can cause fires.
  • Be cautious shoveling snow. It is extremely hard work and can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death during and after winter storms.

Winter Car Survival Tips

If a blizzard traps you...

  • avoid overexertion and exposure
  • stay in your vehicle (but keep it ventilated)
  • exercise
  • turn on dome light at night
  • stand watches and don't panic.

Survival in your car.

  • Avoid winter travel when possible. Don't "dare" the elements and threaten your life.
  • Know the weather. Listen to forecasts, road reports and storm warnings. Trust them. They are given for YOU.
  • Allow extra time for essential trips in severe weather.
  • Talk it over before you travel. Simple planning can save you distress and even save your life. We suggest you and your family play "WHAT IF". Invent situations and discuss how you would behave.
  • Make it easy to be found. Tell someone of your route and when to expect you. If stalled, tie a colored banner (from your kit) on your antenna. Turn on the dome light in darkness. Road crews, helicopters and snowmobile rescue units can see a small glow at considerable distances.
  • Keep one person on watch. Don't all rest at the same time.
  • Stay in your vehicle. Walking in a storm can be very dangerous. You can lose your way, wander out of reach, become a casualty. Your vehicle itself is a good shelter.
  • Avoid overexertion. Attempting to push your car, trying to jack it into a new position or shoveling heavy drifts take great effort in storm conditions. Your dangers: Injury from tools or a slipping vehicle, exhaustion, heart attack or even death.
  • Take it easy.

Don't panic.

  • Calm down and think. The storm will end. You will be found.
  • Don't work so hard you get hot and perspire. Conserve your body energy and heat. Wet clothing loses insulation. You'll have to evaporate the perspiration with body heat. Be sure you ventilate your clothing when you work.
  • Keep fresh air in your vehicle. Freezing-wet or wind-driven snow can seal your shelter into a coffin.
  • DO NOT RUN THE ENGINE - unless you are certain that exhaust with the deadly killer, carbon monoxide, can not enter.
  • Open a window away from the wind for fresh air. It is better to be chilly and awake than comfortably warm as you slip into unconsciousness. An idling engine may use more than a gallon of fuel an hour with the heater going -and it may overheat and die without good air flow through its radiator.
  • Keep warm without fuel. Clap your hands. Move your arms and legs to keep circulation going. Exercise at least 10 minutes at a stretch to get these benefits. Change body position. Cuddle each other to share heat.

Summer Storm Definitions

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH The National Weather Service alert to the possibility of large hail, heavy rain and damaging winds, in a specified area over a specified period of time.

Public Warning: Commercial Radio/TV and Weather Radio
Public Action: Observe developing weather conditions and stay tuned for latest advisory information.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING National Weather Service confirmation of a line of thunderstorms or severe thunderstorm and location, time of detection, direction and speed of movement.

Public Warning: Commercial Radio/TV and Weather Radio
Public Action: Observe developing weather conditions and stay tuned for latest advisory information.

TORNADO WATCH National Weather Service alert to possible tornado development in a specified area over a specified period of time.

Public Warning: Commercial Radio/TV and Weather Radio
Public Action: Observe developing weather conditions and stay tuned for latest advisory information.

TORNADO WARNING or VERY DESTRUCTIVE WINDS The National Weather Service or local authorities have information of actual tornadic activity, strong damaging winds, or radar signals indication the presence of a tornado.

Public Warning: Commercial Radio/TV and Weather Radio. Steady siren tone for 3-5 minutes.
Public Action: Evaluate conditions where you are and if strong winds, heavy rain or large hail are present TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise listen to Radio/TV and prepare to take shelter.

When taking shelter


  • Go to the lowest, smallest, most interior area such as a stairwell, bathroom or closet.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Take cover under a sturdy workbench or table, not underneath heavy appliances on the floor above.
  • Do not remain in a trailer or mobile home. Seek shelter inside the nearest steel-framed or reinforced concrete building, preferably in the basement.


  • In an office building, go to basement or inner hallway on a lower floor.
  • In a factory, go to a shelter area, or to the basement if there is one.


  • Go to basement or inner hallway on a lower floor.
  • Stay away from building entrances and windows.
  • If building is of reinforced construction, stay inside.
  • AVOID AUDITORIUMS, GYMNASIUMS, OR LARGE AREAS with poorly supported roofs.

In Open Country

  • Go to a substantial structure.
  • If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine or culvert with your hands shielding your head.

SJU Responses to Severe Weather

Siren activation at Saint John's will be based upon information from the Stearns County Sheriff's Department, Local Law Enforcement Officers and the National Weather Service. Stay in your safe area on campus until notified by an authority that it is safe to leave.

Monthly Siren Test

A siren test occurs at one O'clock on the first Wednesday of every month by Stearns County. Saint John's Life Safety Services tests the sirens on campus every Saturday of the month at noon. If the threat of severe weather exists on the test date, the test occurs at one O'clock on the following Thursday.