MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you hear tornado sirens going off Thursday, don't be alarmed. Just be aware, as they're a reminder to everyone that the season for tornadoes is near.
The drills and sirens are part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. The warning especially hits home in north Minneapolis, where a tornado devastated the community nearly a year ago.
City and state leaders gathered at Mary Ann Schissler's front yard on Emerson Avenue North on Thursday.
"I was reading the Sunday paper and the siren went off," Schissler said. "I looked up and there was no ceiling. I was looking at the sky. The only thing holding up one side of the roof was an old metal suitcase."
Last May , the tornado sent an ash tree into her living room, taking out the top floor and front of her home.
Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman stood beside leaders instrumental in the rebuilding of north Minneapolis. They relayed an important message as severe weather season arrives once again.
"In the blink of an eye disaster can strike ," said Rothman. "It's a reminder now is a time to be thinking about insurance needs and being prepared."
Schlisser said she was uninsured a few months before the tornado, but signed up just two weeks before the tornado it. The coverage allowed her to rebuild from the $100,000 worth of damage it caused.
"That is sadly contrasted with the stories we heard, one by one, we heard in neighborhoods with people who didn't have insurance," said Mayor Rybak.
"The real heroes of the story are the homeowners and property owners that had to go into battle then next day to figure out how to pull all the different pieces together, insurance, contractors," said Chad Schwitters, president of Urban Homeworks, a company that is helping homeowners rebuild.
Leaders emphasized that in a neighborhood with many rental homes, renters were especially vulnerable. They advise renters and landlords to review properties and to secure rental insurance.
Schissler moved back into her family home that once belonged to her grandmother. Seven decades of memories can continue for her, but one look down her street and she worries a generation has been uprooted.
"I get very emotional about it. It almost makes me cry, really," looking at the broken trees and tarped roofs that still remain.
Already this spring, we've had reports of tornadoes in Minnesota. To make sure everyone knows what to do when a tornado hits, there will be tornado drills across the state Thursday. The tests and drills serve as a reminder for us to have a plan in place no matter where we are: At home, at work or at school.
When it comes to storm warnings, meteorologists would prefer for everyone to have 20 minutes warning, but that's not always possible. When a storm hits, sometimes we have minutes or even just seconds to react.
Tornado sirens went off at 1:45 p.m. and then again just before at 6:55 p.m. Thursday as tests. The timing of this is because severe weather often happens between 3 and 8 p.m. Hennepin County will be testing out 248 sirens on Thursday.
Sirens are meant to let people outside know to take cover, but for those of you inside, you should rely on a NOAA weather radio or TV and radio reports.
for more features.