Portland school practices tornado drill

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PORTLAND, Mich (WLNS) – In schools across Michigan, we expect the shuffle of feet and endless chatter. But never complete silence.

The reason? Students at St. Patrick Catholic School are focused on something that hits close to home: tornado preparedness.

“…Our knees up and our head down… for glass and other heavy stuff doesn’t hit you,” that’s why the students are crouched over, explained fifth grader Emma Honsowitz.

After Monday morning’s assembly, Honsowitz and her classmates participated in a school-wide tornado drill. St. Patrick is in Portland, where a tornado ripped through town last June. School principal, Randy Hodge, says his students remember.

“You could’ve heard a pin drop. I did not hear one student say a word. And they just… they knew and understood… that this is a real event that can happen.”

One minute, they were reading. And the next, out the door, headed for the school’s basement floor-in silence.

“We try to do it in less than two minutes,” said Hodge.

“It could take a few seconds before that storm hits you, it could take a few minutes. But every second counts to save lives,” explained Jim Maczko, a National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist.

Maczko says the storms are especially fast in the Great Lakes State. Although he says most Michigan severe weather doesn’t destroy homes, Maczko wants people to know what to do when that’s a possibility.

“If you don’t have a basement you want to get to the lowest floor and you want to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.”

I asked Emma Honsowitz if she learned anything new at the assembly. Her answer, simple: “no.”

It seems the key to success…is “practice, practice, practice.”

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