National Weather Service (NWS) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), has declared the week of March 1 – 7, 2015 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois. This is to help citizens of Illinois be more aware of the dangers of severe storms.

Several tests will be performed today. A statewide "Tornado Drill" will be held at 10:00am Tuesday (3/3). You will hear EAS tones on the radio and on your weather radio, plus many communities will be testing their outdoor warning sirens.

According to the National Weather Service, the best way to be prepared for severe weather is to have multiple methods of receiving weather alerts, rather than just relying on outdoor warning sirens. “Weather alert radios will wake you up and give you potentially life-saving warnings. They are like having your own personal storm siren.” said Chris Miller, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Illinois.

Other methods include the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which sends tornado and flash flood warnings with a loud tone alert to most smart phones. Wireless device apps, social media sites and local media outlets are also very good ways to receive emergency information.

It is important to 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.
  • 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.

The National Weather Service also reminds you to stay alert for the latest hazardous weather information, especially at night or if traveling. In Illinois, 30 percent of all tornadoes occur at night. 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.

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