Monday, March 03, 2014
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Now is the time to be ready for severe weather

Weather service testing tornado warning system Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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[March 03, 2014]  Extreme weather impacted nearly every part of Illinois in 2013, from major flooding in the spring to a quickly developing drought in summer. However, the largest impact was from a record setting severe weather event in mid-November.

An outbreak of 25 tornadoes devastated parts of the state from the Chicago suburbs through central Illinois to the Ohio River on Sunday November 17th. Fourteen of the tornadoes were either strong or violent, which resulted in eight fatalities, 183 injuries, more than $1.1 Billion dollars in property damage to homes and businesses, and illustrating that tornadoes can occur any time of the year.

Family and business preparedness, close monitoring of severe weather threats, and taking protective actions made a big difference in minimizing the death toll from the intense tornadoes on November 17th. Now is the time to prepare yourself, your family, your business, or any place people gather before severe storms impact Illinois again.

To help the citizens of Illinois be more aware of the dangers of severe storms, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), has declared the week of March 2 8, 2014 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois. In addition, the annual statewide "Tornado Drill" will be held Tuesday, March 4th at 10:00 am CST. At that time, Illinois NWS offices will send an actual Tornado Warning as a test to local media outlets through the Emergency Alert System (EAS), as well as to those with weather alert radios. People are encouraged to use this time to practice their tornado safety plans at home, schools, and businesses. Many local communities will also test their outdoor warning sirens at 10:00 am Tuesday during this "Tornado Drill".

"Outdoor warning sirens are a small part of the warning process during threatening weather, not the only part." said Chris Miller, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. "Around 30% of all tornadoes occur at night when it is difficult to hear the outdoor sirens in your home  especially while asleep. Weather alert radios will wake you up and give you potentially life-saving warnings. They are like having your own personal storm siren." said Miller.

The state of Illinois averages 47 tornadoes and hundreds of reports of large hail and wind damage each year. We cannot stop severe storms from occurring, but there is something that everyone can do to prepare for these inevitable forces of nature:

  • Know the terms related to tornadoes and severe storms

A TORNADO is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm all the way to the ground. Some tornadoes cause minor damage to buildings and trees, while others can result in complete destruction of everything in their path. If the rotation is NOT in contact with the ground, it is referred to as a FUNNEL CLOUD.

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  • Know the terms related to tornadoes and severe storms, cont.

A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM can produce hail one inch in diameter or larger, and/or 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 nearly 70% of the tornadoes that affect Illinois.

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

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. Warnings typically last for 30 to 60 minutes.

  • Use several sources to receive warning information, don't just rely on sirens. Weather alert radios, local broadcasters, weather related Web pages, social media sites, and phone apps are a few suggestions.
  • Stay alert for the latest hazardous weather information, especially at night or if traveling.
  • Identify safe indoor shelters. A basement is best. If you don't have a basement, go to the lowest possible floor in a closet or hallway, away from windows and exterior doors. If traveling, get to a nearby building quickly. If none is available, as a last resort, lie flat in a ditch and protect your head.
  • Storm warnings are issued for portions of counties. Know the name of the county you live in, and the counties you travel through.
  • If it is safe to do so, contact family members and friends when you become aware of a severe thunderstorm or tornado that may threaten them.

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


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