Portland prepares for severe weather season

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 07:28:52-04

 Teachers like Khristie Cook at Portland St. Patrick's Catholic School are preparing their students for the worst, after an EF-1 tornado touched down just outside the school doors last summer.

"It is very real for them now," Cook said of her students' experience with tornadoes.

The school is rebuilding its safety measures with a tornado drill to teach kids to be brave, and smart in an emergency.

"They comfort each other and they're just better prepared for it, so it helps them overall to stay calm," Cook said.

The small town of less than 4,000 people is rebuilding its downtown almost a year after the damage. Walls are going up on the Good Will store that collapsed and injured five people when the 100 mph winds ripped through the area on June 22, 2015.

City Manager Tutt Gorman thinks it's a miracle no one was killed, and says with severe weather season on the way, they're taking the awareness week even more seriously.

"The need becomes very real," Gorman said. "Knowing what to do in a situation like this is crucial, and it saves lives."

Which is why Lori Conarton from the state's severe weather awareness committee thinks Portland can be an example to the rest of Michigan.

"They know that they have to take these watches and warnings seriously," Conarton said, "because if you know what to do, and you do it quickly, then you have a better chance of not being injured or killed when we do have severe weather."

A community hoping everyone will be ready if another tornado strikes.

There's a statewide tornado drill set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Governor's office is encouraging schools and businesses to participate.