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Record Editorial: Try not to think about it, but it's severe weather awareness week

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Winter is finally gone, but before you get too carried away celebrating that last patch of snow melting away in the back yard, we have to tell you this is severe weather awareness week.

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That's right, life in Minnesota is not all blizzards and deadly wind chills -- you also have to watch out for tornados, hail, straight-line winds, flash floods, heat waves, and lightning. Not necessarily in that order.

Feeling good about life? Consider this:

-- Thunderstorms, fun though they are to watch, cause extensive damage across the state each year.

The annual toll from hail alone is about $1 billion nationally.

-- As you have probably observed, most hail is about pea-sized. But it can reach the size of baseballs, or even grapefruits. Large hail stones fall faster than 100 mph and have been known to kill people.

This is totally beside the point, but one of our favorite headlines was about a semi that tipped, spilling its load.

It read: "Golf balls the size of hail cover highway."

Still depressed? You should be:

-- High temperatures, for example, can quickly cause heat exhaustion, especially in children and elderly persons.

-- Lightning kills and injures more people than any other summer weather threat.

-- Forty-seven lightning fires took place in homes and business structures in 2007, resulting in damages of about $2.3 million.

-- There were 18 tornadoes in Minnesota in 2007.

On the plus side, that's the lowest total since 1990, when there were only 12.

On the down side, one of the two strongest tornadoes landed uncomfortably close -- near Pelican Rapids (the other touched down near Eldred). Both were rated EF-2, with winds of 111-135 mph.

Even hot weather, though it seems like such a wonderful idea in January and February, can kill you.

Since 1993, 14 people have died in Minnesota from excessive heat and humidity, making heat and humidity the state's second-deadliest weather events, after floods.

In the last 10 years, a national average of 219 people have died as a result of health problems directly related to excessive heat, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The National Weather Service will issue advisories or warnings when the daytime heat index is expected to reach 110 or 115 degrees, and the nighttime low temperature does not fall below 75 or 80 degrees.

If that ever happens, wear a hat, stay in the basement, avoid Mr. Sun, and drink heavily -- water, definitely not alcohol.

Come to think of it, that's good advice no matter what the weather.

Enjoy your summer!

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