Tuesday, March 11, 2008
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Preparedness Is Critical to Surviving Severe Storms

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[March 11, 2008]  Damaging thunderstorms have already made their presence felt across the state of Illinois this year -- and the beginning of our "severe weather season" is still a month away! Several severe thunderstorms with large hail, wind damage and a handful of tornadoes struck central and northern Illinois on Jan. 7. Early February brought severe weather to the southern half of the state. All of this was accompanied by extensive flooding, which is still affecting many rivers across the state.

To 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 and the American Red Cross, declared the week of March 2-8 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois.

"Preparing for the hazards of severe thunderstorms and remaining alert for watches and warnings are the keys to staying safe when damaging wind, large hail, tornadoes and flooding threaten Illinois," said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. Many survival stories that illustrated this point emerged after a series of deadly storms struck the southern United States on Feb. 5. "People at schools, shopping malls, businesses and homes survived the devastating storms on Feb. 5 because they were aware of the threat for severe weather and quickly went to a substantial shelter when warnings were issued," said Miller.

The state of Illinois experiences more than 40 tornadoes, 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:

  • 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 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, which 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.

  • A statewide "tornado drill" was conducted March 4 at 10 a.m. At that time, a test tornado warning was issued for all 102 counties in the state of Illinois. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards transmitters, along with many commercial radio and TV stations participated by relaying the test warning. Outdoor warning sirens were also tested in many locations. In Lincoln the outdoor sirens were not sounded and were rescheduled for March 11.

For more information about being adequately prepared for severe weather, visit the NWS Lincoln "Severe Weather Safety" Web page at www.weather.gov/Lincoln/?n=svr-prep.

[Text from file received from National Weather Service, Lincoln]

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