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Prepare for bad weather

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The Illinois Emergency Management Agency knows all too well how critical it is that everyone is prepared for an emergency.  The National Weather Service (NWS) and state and local emergency management officials strongly encourage everyone to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards with battery backup. When an alert is issued for that area, the device will sound a piercing tone followed by the broadcast message.

“Tornadoes do not just occur during the day,” said Chris Miller, meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. “In Illinois, 30 percent of all tornadoes occur at night when it can be difficult to hear outdoor warning sirens from inside your home, especially if you are asleep.  Outdoor warning sirens are not designed to be heard indoors.  The best way to be warned about tornadoes at night is to have a weather alert radio in your home.”

While you can’t prevent severe weather, there are steps you can take to stay safe when severe weather threatens.

Tornadoes

Our state is one of the 17 that makes up Tornado Alley.  Here are some things to know that will help keep you and your family safe from tornadoes:

Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.  A tornado watch warns the public to the possibility of a tornado.  A tornado warning informs the public of an existing tornado or one suspected to be in existence.

It is imperative that someone at home, work or wherever people gather, monitors weather conditions. Many deadly tornadoes occur at night. Do not solely rely on outdoor warning sirens, especially if you are asleep. Outdoor warning sirens are designed to be heard outdoors only.

Determine the best place in your home or workplace to seek shelter when a tornado threatens.  Getting underground will afford the best protection, but if an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room on the lowest level. The idea is to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

Ensure that you have an emergency supply kit that can support you and your family for at least three days.

Visit the Ready Illinois website, ready.illinois.gov, for more information including what should be contained within your emergency supply kit.

During a tornado, go immediately to your predetermined shelter such as underground or an interior room on the lowest level of the building with your emergency supply kit. In a basement, crouch under the stairs, a heavy piece of furniture or a sturdy work bench.

It is imperative that you avoid places with wide roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms and large hallways.

If an indoor shelter is not available then, as a last resort, lie flat in a ditch.  Protect your head and neck with your arms. Always be aware of the potential for flash flooding.

If you are in a vehicle, do not park under a bridge or overpass.  Immediately exit the vehicle in a safe manner and get away from it.  Lie flat in a ditch and cover your head and neck with your arms.  Never attempt to outrun a tornado.  If you see a tornado that does not appear to be moving in a particular direction, it is probably moving toward you.

After a tornado, downed power lines are potentially energized and be aware of natural gas leaks. Check for injured victims and render aid if necessary.  Exit damaged buildings and re-enter only if absolutely necessary.

Severe thunderstorms

Know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning which means severe thunderstorms are occurring. Severe thunderstorms produce damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and hail one inch in diameter or larger along with lightning.

Wind gusts from a severe thunderstorm can do more damage than many tornadoes.

If outdoors and you hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.

Avoid using the corded telephone, delay taking baths or showers and turn off air conditioners to avoid compressor damage due to the lightning threat.

After a severe thunderstorm, be alert for hazards on the roadway.

Flooding

Flooding is the number one severe weather related killer nationwide.  The peak time for flash flooding in Illinois is 1 a.m.  Most of the fatalities involved people in vehicles trying to cross a flooded roadway.  Turn around, don’t drown.

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