Monday, March 02, 2009
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This is Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Be ready when severe storms and flooding strike

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[March 02, 2009]  Severe weather affected nearly every corner of Illinois in 2008. Tornadoes touched down 48 times, injuring 11 people and causing tens of millions in damage. Flooding ravaged many parts of the state on four separate occasions during the year. Six people were killed and property losses were in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The bottom line: Illinoisans must be prepared for the effects of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding.

DonutsTo help the citizens of Illinois be more aware of the dangers of severe storms and flooding, the National Weather Service, in cooperation with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, has declared the week of March 1-7 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois.

"Being ready for the hazards created by severe thunderstorms is essential each and every year," said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. "People need to know where to seek safe shelter when damaging winds or tornadoes are expected. They need to know that it is not safe to cross a flooded road in a vehicle or by foot in any circumstance. The weather the past several years has proven that no part of Illinois is immune to the threat of severe storms or flooding."

The state of Illinois experiences more than 40 tornadoes, 170 flooding events, 200 reports of large hail and more than 300 reports of severe wind or wind damage each year. The following information will help you stay safe from these inevitable forces of nature:

  • NEVER cross a flooded road or bridge in a vehicle. More than 75 percent of all flood-related deaths are due to people attempting to drive into a flooded area. If the water is 12 inches deep or more, back up and take a different route. NEVER let children play in or near floodwaters or drainage ditches.

  • Develop a severe weather safety plan for use at home, in the workplace, at schools, in your vehicle and for outdoor activities.

    • In a home with a basement, take shelter under a sturdy table or workbench.

    • In homes without a basement, go to the lowest floor possible, and seek shelter in an interior hallway, closet or bathroom without windows.

    • In mobile homes, seek shelter well before the storm approaches. Go to a sturdy building. Do not try to ride out the storm in a mobile home.

    • In the workplace, go to the designated storm shelters on the lowest floor possible. If your employer has not assigned storm shelters, or if you are not sure where they are, ask your company's safety manager.

    • In schools, the safest place to go is in an interior hallway on the lowest floor, away from windows and doors.

    • In your vehicle, if a tornado is bearing down on you, take shelter in a sturdy building. If no building is nearby, then lie flat in a ditch or ravine and cover your head. Do NOT seek shelter under a bridge or highway overpass.

    • Outdoors, try to get into a sturdy building. If there is no building nearby, then lie flat in a ditch or low spot and cover your head.

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  • Know the terms related to tornadoes and severe storms.

    • A TORNADO is a violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of the thunderstorm cloud to the ground.

    • A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM can produce large hail, three-fourths inch in diameter or larger, and wind gusts around 60 mph or higher that can result in damage to trees, structures or power lines. Severe thunderstorm winds can be stronger, and produce more damage, than 70 percent of the tornadoes that affect Illinois.

    • A WATCH means that tornadoes or severe thunderstorms are possible, and you need to watch the weather closely.

    • A WARNING means that a tornado or severe thunderstorm has been detected by radar, or has been reported by a trained storm-spotter. Seek safe shelter immediately if your location is in the path of the storm.

  • Have multiple sources at hand to monitor threatening weather conditions. It is critical to monitor watches, warnings and other storm information. A tone-alert weather radio is the most efficient way to do this. Most weather radios can be easily programmed, so you only receive the watches and warnings for your county, or any other nearby counties you choose.

  • Monitoring local television and radio stations that are participating members of the Emergency Alert System is another good way to keep abreast of approaching storms.

  • Don't just rely on outdoor warning sirens. They may not be heard indoors and may not wake you up. If you hear an outdoor warning siren, turn on your weather radio or other radio or TV station for more information.

For more information about being adequately prepared for severe weather, visit the NWS Lincoln "Severe Weather Safety" Web page at

[Text from National Weather Service file received via Terry Storer, Logan County Emergency Management Agency]

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