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IEMA encourages preparedness for severe spring, summer weather   Send a link to a friend

Severe Weather Preparedness Week set for Feb. 29 - March 6

[FEB. 28, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois experienced a record-setting 120 tornadoes in 2003, resulting in two deaths, 81 injuries and more than $40 million in damage. Even in a non-record-setting year, Illinoisans can expect an average of 31 tornadoes, along with numerous thunderstorms, damaging winds, hail and floods.

To help Illinois residents prepare for severe storms, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service will observe Severe Weather Preparedness Week Feb. 29 through March 6.

"Spring brings a welcomed reprieve from the winter's freezing temperatures, but it's important that people be aware of severe weather hazards and know what to do when a storm is approaching," said William C. Burke, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "Now's the time to make sure you understand what watches and warnings mean and have a plan of action when warnings are issued."

As part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, individuals, schools and businesses are encouraged to conduct tornado drills on Tuesday, March 2, at 10 a.m. Burke said the drills will help ensure that families, students and employees know what to do if a tornado warning is issued.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service recommend that people have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with a battery backup and tone-alert feature. The NOAA radio issues automatic alerts when a watch or warning is issued. Because the National Weather Service uses county names when watches and warnings are issued, it's important to know the county or counties in which you live and work.

Spring and summer are the prime time for severe thunderstorms, which can produce tornadoes, damaging winds, lightning, hail or heavy rain.

Each year, more people are killed by lighting than tornadoes in the United States, with most deaths occurring in open fields, such as ball fields, and under or near trees. If you are outdoors when lightning begins, you should seek shelter immediately. A safe rule of thumb to follow is that if you can hear thunder, you are probably close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. In the house, you should avoid taking baths or showers or using the telephone or other electrical appliances until after the storm passes.

While a basement or cellar usually offers the best protection during a tornado, an interior room or hallway without windows on the lowest level of the building can also provide protection. People who are in schools, office buildings and other public structures during a tornado should go to the lowest level of the building, avoiding places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums and large hallways.

 

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Residents of mobile homes should identify a safe shelter outside the mobile home, such as a community park shelter, a friend's house or a nearby public building, where they can go when tornado warnings are issued. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. If there isn't a substantial shelter nearby, mobile home residents should seek shelter in a low-lying area and shield their heads with their hands.

Flooding often follows severe storms and is the No. 1 severe weather killer nationwide. While some floods take hours to days to develop, the most dangerous type of flooding -- flash flooding -- develops rapidly and can sweep away everyone and everything in its path. Many flood-related deaths occur in vehicles on flooded roads, while others occur when people or child venture into floodwaters to play or protect their property.

When flooding occurs, people should listen to the radio for information from local emergency personnel, including instructions to turn off utilities at their source or to evacuate. When evacuation is advised, people should do so quickly because evacuation is much easier and safer before floodwaters become too deep for ordinary vehicles to drive through. Evacuees should follow recommended evacuation routes, as short cuts may be flooded and as little as 2 feet of water can carry away most automobiles.

To help the public learn more about how to prepare for severe weather, Illinois Emergency Management Agency developed a "Severe Storm Preparedness Guide," which is available at www.state.il.us/iema or by calling (217) 785-0229.  [To download the Adobe Acrobat reader for the guide, click here.] The preparedness guide includes information on weather terms, how to keep yourself and your family safe when a storm approaches, and what actions to take following a severe storm, tornado or flood.

[Illinois Emergency Management Agency
news release]

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