Tornadoes past and present are a vital reminder about the need for a statewide severe weather drill set to take place later this month.

The National Weather Service says a tornado touched down at 7:03 p.m. Thursday in Vernon, about 21 miles southwest of Flint. Officials say the same tornado touched down in nearby Durand at about 7:05 p.m. Severe weather also was reported in nearby Genesee County. Michigan State Police say roughly 70 homes were damaged, but no injuries were immediately reported. Power lines also were downed.

Bancroft resident Jessica Fate was inside as the tornado ripped through her home. "We actually had to climb over everything. The entire ceiling was caved in on the floor, the couches were all pushed up into the kitchen where we were." Genesee Township Assistant Fire Chief Don Fremd said one mobile home took some of the worst damage - but there were no injuries. "We have roofs ripped completely off two or three different trailers. We got trees twisted tops were ripped right off. There's heavy heavy damage throughout the trailer park."

It was also seven years ago today that an F3 tornado ripped through the Dexter area, destroying more than 100 homes while downing trees and power lines. And while no one was seriously injured as a result, officials are reminding the public that the danger is always real and that an upcoming drill will help ensure the public’s safety in future events.

Livingston County residents are encouraged to participate in a statewide tornado drill set for Wednesday, March 27th at 1pm. The exercise will spur the sounding of all of the outdoor warning sirens in Livingston County as well as set off the county’s Public Alerting System that will contact county residents via landline, cell phone, text message and email to announce the drill.

Therese Cremonte is the Emergency Manager for Livingston County and says one of the main reasons for the lack of serious injury in the Dexter tornado was because the warning systems were in place and people knew what to do. She says that underscores the importance of the statewide drill set for March 27th in which all outdoor warning sirens in Livingston County will be set off and the Livingston County Public Alerting System will contact residents via landline telephone, cell phone, text message, and/or email to announce the drill.

Participation in the sheltering portion of the drill is voluntary, but recommended. Livingston County residents, businesses, schools, local and county government agencies are being asked to take a few minutes to practice severe weather and tornado sheltering safety by taking part in the drill and responding as though a tornado has been spotted in the area. Officials say it’s important to discuss where to shelter and what to do, whether at home or work, and practice your plan. It’s also an opportunity to review emergency weather plans and make updates if needed.

Cremonte, who will be a guest this Sunday at 8:30am on WHMI’s Viewpoint, says while tornado-related injuries are rare in Livingston County, they do occur. Statistics from the National Weather Service compiled between 1951 and 2013, show that overall there have been 35 injuries. There has only been one death, which occurred in 1974.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Livingston County is participating to promote community preparedness and safety as we enter severe weather and tornado season in Michigan. The drill is being done in conjunction with Severe Weather Awareness Week, which runs March 24th through the 30th. You’ll find additional resources through the link below. (JK)