Tornado warning drill planned for Rapid City area

Things might get a little alarming around the region Wednesday, but no one needs to worry about being whisked away to Oz.

The National Weather Service (NWS) will conduct their annual tornado warning drill. The drill will involve emergency sirens and live messages via the Emergency Broadcast System and weather radio, using the same codes as a real tornado event.

The messages will be carefully worded to reassure the public they are only tests.

The exercise is all part of getting ready for severe thunderstorm season in the Black Hills.

"We do that to test our systems and especially communications between the weather service and our emergency response partners like 911 dispatch and the media to make sure everything’s working," said Susan Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Rapid City office.

The drill isn’t just for the NWS and emergency services – people who see and hear the test message should also start getting ready.

"These kind of storms can develop very rapidly, and we can go from clear skies to literally very bad storms, tornadoes, large hail, flash floods in an hour,” Sanders said. “And so people need to make their plans, think about what they would do ahead of time, because once the storms develop or once we’ve issued a warning, it could be too late."

Should severe weather be expected Wednesday, the test will be postponed.