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Perham was in tornado warning area Sunday evening, so how does that response happen?

Otter Tail County Emergency Management and Code Red Coordinator Patrick Waletzko was aware Perham was in a tornado warning Sunday evening as a storm struck the northeastern Minnesota community and sirens went off.

"There was some rotation in the clouds but no actual tornado formation or a touchdown," Waletzko said.

Waletzko said the sirens were activated by the OTC Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center in Fergus Falls which received a warning from the National Weather Service.

The thunderstorm which passed over Perham dumped some heavy rainfall on the city and may have resulted in some light wind damage.

"There are two criteria for siren activation," Waletzko said. "One is when a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, and number two is when a local public safety official requests activation."

The city of Perham has an emergency manager as well, Police Chief Jason Hoaby. Jon Smith, the city manager, is the assistant emergency manager.

When sirens go off Waletzko strongly recommends taking action.

"Never hesitate," Waletzko said. "When you feel it is necessary to seek shelter or go in the basement, absolutely don't don't hesitate to do that. The National Weather Service will issue tornado warnings when they see rotation on their radar, they let us know right away, but that is only when they see rotation on their radar."

Waletzko said one of the challenges for weather reporting services is that there are instances when tornadoes materialize without warning. One such tornado was reported in the Bemidji area July 4, an EF1 which packed winds of 90 to 100 mph and caused severe damage in certain areas of the northern Minnesota city, which is 70 miles northeast of Perham.

"You should not always rely on sirens. There needs to be other tools, and you need to take some of this under your own advisement. We use sirens, we use our Code Red system but people shouldn't necessarily wait until the get those to take action."

Waletzko said Otter Tail County hosts exercises twice a year for responders and community partners in April and in October or November.

Waletzko, who has been in emergency management for 12 years, seven with Otter Tail County, can be reached at (218) 998-8067 for people seeking more information about weather warnings.

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