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Westgate Elementary students practice tornado drill

Practicing severe weather safety
Posted: 6:02 PM, Mar 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-27 23:42:10Z
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Severe weather awareness week continues today with a focus on tornadoes.

The safest place in most homes during a tornado is in the basement, but not everyone has one.

To find a safe room, go to the lowest level of your home, then move towards the center, putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Grab blankets, pillows, and helmets to add extra protection.

The most common month for tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa is June, but the surrounding months are also busy.

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Tornado drills are an important part of being prepared for severe weather, which is something the students and staff at Westgate Elementary School know all too well.

In 1975, Westgate Elementary School was in the direct path of a tornado as it struck Omaha.

Thankfully, no teachers or students were injured in the destruction and the school was rebuilt in the summer.

Now, it's the only school in the district with a basement and it was put to use this morning during the statewide tornado drill.

As the sirens went off just after 10:15 this morning, all 273 students quickly and quietly made their way to the basement.

Impressively, it took just over four and a half minutes to get everyone into the shelter.

"I think they did really well. it's not always easy to stop what you're doing and just get up and go," 3rd grade teacher Mary Morris says.

Morris has been working at the school for 19 years. After the drill, she talks to her students about what they saw and heard, and why it's all so important.

"Pulling them back and letting them have a chance to reflect and know, 'This is what I saw,' 'This is what I heard,' and 'This is why we do it,' the chances are gonna be so much higher for them to go back down there and do it correctly next time," Morris adds.

Everyone in the school is thankful for the basement shelter and students feel even safer in it.

"A lot of schools don't have the correct protection to help the kids and I feel like we're super lucky to be able to have that," fifth grader Delaney McGrane says.

Not only do the students appreciate having the basement, they recognize the importance of the drill, too.

"Maybe if we didn't know this stuff, we wouldn't know where to go, and it'd be harder and we might not be able to make it in time because they'd have to explain everywhere we have to go," fifth grader Monte Costello adds.

And the 5th graders remember how nervous the drills made them when they were younger, so they have some advice to pass along, too.

"So then we know what to do when events like that happen, and it's not a scary thing, it's just practice," explains Mia Urosevich.