Storm Ready: Is the Twin Cities area prepared for a major tornado?

May 14, 2012

Meteorologists say it's not a question of if, but of when a powerful tornado—much stronger than the storm that hit North Minneapolis last year—will rip through the Twin Cities. Would nursing homes, shopping malls, schools and stadiums be prepared? With severe weather season upon us, MPR News and KARE 11 teamed up to answer that question. We found plenty of preparation, but experts say even with planning, it's impossible to protect everyone. And while the experts say the delivery of warnings needs to be more effective, people often ignore them anyway. In addition, experts disagree on what you should do if you are caught out on the road in a tornado. New research shows that staying in your car may be your best choice when a tornado strikes, a departure from previous advice.

MPR News and KARE 11 created a simulated storm to test the Twin Cities' tornado preparedness. Along the path of our hypothetical storm, we checked in with several places to see how they're planning for such an event.

  • Timeline of a simulated storm

    Scroll down in the right column or choose a specific time to see the storm advance over the metro, watch the storm form, and learn how key locations are prepared to protect the public.

  • 7:00 a.m.

    NOAA says moderate risk of storms

    NOAA Storm Prediction Center issues "moderate risk" for severe storms centered on the Twin Cities. Wording highlights the chance for "Significant tornadoes" capable of major damage.

  • 2:00 p.m.

    Tornado watch issued for metro area

    NOAA's Storm Prediction Center issues a tornado watch for most of southern Minnesota including the Twin Cities metro area until 9 p.m.

  • 4:30 p.m.

    Thunderstorms develop

    Strong thunderstorms develop along the Minnesota River near Mankato, moving northeast at 30 mph.

  • 5:30 p.m.

    Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued

    Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued for the southwest metro, including Scott and Carver counties.

  • 6:25 p.m.

    Funnel cloud spotted, tornado warnings issued

    A rotating wall cloud and funnel is spotted by law enforcement and the public over Shakopee, Minn., moving northeast at 20 mph. Tornado warnings are issued for Scott and Hennepin counties until 7:30 p.m. Sirens sounded in Scott and Hennepin counties.

    Tornado emergency action plans put into practice

    Tornado warnings and emergency sirens are the triggers for the locations in the path of our hypothetical tornado to implement their emergency action plans.

  • 6:30 p.m.

    A tornado touchdown is reported near Valleyfair amusement park in Shakopee

    More about Valleyfair's tornado plan ›

  • 6:35 p.m.

    EF1 tornado on the ground near Eden Prairie Center and Highway 494 in Eden Prairie

    More about Eden Prairie Center's disaster plan ›

  • 6:40 p.m.

    EF2 tornado on the ground near Edina High School near Highway 62 in Edina

    More about Edina High School's tornado plan ›

  • 6:45 p.m.

    EF3 tornado on the ground just west of Edina Care and Rehabilitation Center

    More about Edina Care and Rehabilitation Center's tornado plan ›

  • 6:55 p.m.

    EF4 tornado on the ground near Hennepin and Lake in Minneapolis

    More about Uptown's tornado plan ›

  • 7:00 p.m.

    EF3 tornado on the ground near I-394/94 approaching downtown, Target Field, and HCMC

    Game time is 7:10pm.

    More about Target Field's tornado plan ›
    More about HCMC's tornado plan ›
    More about tornado safety in your car ›

  • 7:05 p.m.

    Tornado lifts over St. Anthony

    No further tornado touchdowns are reported. An EF4 tornado has wind speeds of 166-200 mph, leaving major structural damage in its path from Eden Prairie through Edina, into Minneapolis.

  • 7:30 p.m.

    Storms weaken as they move into northeast metro

    Warnings and watches are lifted.

  • Paul Huttner Belinda Jensen

    Storm track created by MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner and KARE 11 News chief meteorologist Belinda Jensen.
    Huttner and Jensen talk about the storm scenario on The Daily Circuit.
    Huttner writes about the weather daily on MPR's Updraft blog.


    Reporters: Curtis Gilbert, Paul Tosto, Dan Gunderson
    Editors: Mike Edgerly, Kate Moos
    Online producers: Justin Heideman, Melanie Sommer
    Photographers: Jennifer Simonson, Ann Arbor Miller

  1. Valleyfair

  2. Eden Prairie Center

  3. Edina High School

  4. Edina Care and Rehabilitation Center

  5. Uptown

  6. Target Field

  7. I-94 & I-394

  8. Hennepin County Medical Center