Popular Wisconsin state park is prepared if severe weather strikes

DOOR COUNTY (WITI) -- With a stormy start to the summer in some areas -- severe weather is top of mind. Many have camping trips planned for this summer -- and a popular Wisconsin state park is prepared if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Trailers were tossed, and trees were toppled when strong storms ripped through a campground near Prairie du Chien last Wednesday. It is a stark reminder of what severe weather can do.

284 miles to the north at Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay, park staff have their eyes on the skies.

"We have the weather radio on all the time. So I am listening to that, seeing what they're telling us and warning us about," Courtney Smith with Visitor Services said.

Smith says she is trained to know the park's emergency action plan.

"If there's a severe thunderstorm, we'll go through the campgrounds with our truck lights, and also use our PA System, and sometimes our sirens," Park Superintendent Don McKinnon said.

Signs are posted, and campers are urged to head to the shower room. But McKinnon says the park has no shelter from a tornado.

"There's not a lot of good locations for a tornado except for low areas. They can leave the park, or they can choose to stay. It's up to them," McKinnon said.

According to the Door County Visitor Bureau, the county has 17 campgrounds, with more than 3,100 campsites. The Door County Emergency Services Department coordinates with those facilities.

"Working with the campgrounds proactively, knowing their campground locations, we'll know a number of individuals that may be in a campground dependent on the manifest provided by the campground operator," Door County Emergency Services Director Eric Christensen said.

Campers say they watch the weather, too. Mark and Kate Puls of Wauwatosa have been camping for 42 years. In that time, they say they have had only a few close calls.

"We do pay attention to it to a point, and then act accordingly. May batten down our hatches a little bit, and then take cover, or drive away," Kate Puls said.

"Part of the game. I made it 64 years, I'll make it a few more," Mark Puls said.