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This IS a drill!


As Hennepin County is getting ready to debut it's new tornado siren technology, the city of Minneapolis is upgrading its own siren system so that residents will be warned wherever they are. Although Wednesday's weather was nothing more than a cool spring rain, the dark clouds are a good reminder that severe weather season is just around the corner.

The deadly tornado that struck north Minneapolis in 2011 arrived in May, and many survivors were stunned by how quickly it tore through.

"We grabbed the dog, ran into the basement," Dorsey Howard recalled. "Looked out the window, everything was flying."

Now, Minneapolis residents will have a new layer of severe weather protection. The 30 outdoor weather sirens that have been in place for about 50 years are now being retired for some more modern equipment.

"We have replaced the 1950s euro technology with brand new, state-of-the-art electronic technology," Barrett Lane said. "More reliable -- really more up to date. We've also made sure that each and every one of those sirens has a battery backup."

Yet, there was more to it than a simple swap of old and new. The city added 12 more sirens to adhere with FEMA guidelines on where and how loud the sirens should be.

Hennepin County will continue to control when the sirens go off due to a tornado warning, but the criteria to sound the city's sirens also include sustained straight-line winds in excess of 70 mph.

As part of severe weather awareness week, the sirens will begin their blaring at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday for a statewide drill. The city of Minneapolis plans to sound its sirens again at 6:55 p.m. as well.

Read more: SEVERE WEATHER: Minneapolis upgrades siren system - KMSP-TV