Photo courtesy National Weather Service

Storms can develop quickly in Wisconsin, and knowing what to do when a severe weather warning is issued can help keep you and others safe. To help encourage everyone to be prepared for tornadoes, thunderstorms and flooding, Wisconsin observes April 8-12 as Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week, along with holding statewide tornado drills on April 11.

“Wisconsin made history this year when two tornadoes touched down in early February, which were the first confirmed tornadoes in the state during that month since record keeping began,” said Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Greg Engle. “Tornadoes and severe weather can develop at any time, which is why we are asking everyone to take a few minutes during Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week to review their emergency plans and identify where the nearest safe place to take shelter is located.”

Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually. In 2023, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed 21 tornadoes in the state. That includes 15 tornadoes that touched down in a single day, when storms moved across southern Wisconsin on March 31 of last year.

To stay safe during severe weather, ReadyWisconsin encourages people to do the following:

  • Create an emergency plan and practice it.
  • Know where designated shelters are located at home, work, and school. Be ready to go there when a tornado warning is issued.
  • Have multiple ways to receive alerts about approaching severe weather. Outdoor warning sirens, NOAA Weather Radios, local media, and mobile devices are all important tools. Don’t rely on any single source for important life-saving information.
  • If you have a mobile device, make sure it is enabled to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). On many devices, that option is available in the settings menu. Find out more about WEA at
  • Stay weather aware by checking the daily forecast for your area.
  • Create an emergency kit for your home. Find tips for making a kit at

Wisconsin’s annual statewide tornado drills will take place on April 11 at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., offering an opportunity to practice your tornado sheltering plans. Schools, businesses, and homes are encouraged to practice going to their nearest tornado shelter during the drills, as if there were an actual tornado warning in effect. Ideal tornado shelters can include a basement, a ground floor interior room of a building, or a specially constructed safe room designed to withstand high winds and falling debris.

During the drill times, Wisconsin’s NWS offices will conduct NOAA Weather Radio tests that can be heard if you are actively listening to those devices or have one programmed to activate on test alerts. Local media outlets may also participate on the air or over social media. Some communities may also choose to test their outdoor warning sirens during the drill times. Check with local emergency management offices for information on siren testing schedules.

If there is a threat of severe weather in Wisconsin on April 11, the statewide drills will be postponed until Friday, April 12. The drills will go on in all other conditions, including non-severe weather (clouds, rain, dark sky, scattered thunderstorms, etc.). If severe weather is also expected on Friday, the drills will be cancelled. Notification of the drill status will be posted at by 10 a.m. on the morning of April 11.

“Staying safe from severe weather is everyone’s responsibility,” Engle said. “Spending just a few minutes this week participating in tornado drills could save your life by helping you know how get to safety faster if a real warning is issued later on.”

For more information on emergency preparedness and advice on creating your own emergency plan, visit You can also follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook, X, Threads, and Instagram for tips on emergency preparedness throughout the year!