Have you ever seen a tornado?
I'll never forget the day I saw a tornado touch down. I was just 13 or 14 and on a youth group trip with my church. We were driving through Nebraska and getting ready to stop for dinner when the skies turned dark.
We saw a funnel cloud pass overhead and heard the warning on the radio that people should leave their cars and seek shelter. We did exactly that. We stopped at McDonald's and got ready to seek shelter in the large refrigerator if the tornado hit.
The tornado ultimately touched down about a mile from us. It was incredibly scary, and I hope I never experience that again.
Are You Prepared?
If a tornado warning was issued, would you know what to do? This week is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and it's a perfect time to think about what you should do if severe weather strikes.
According to the National Weather Service, Illinois had 30 tornadoes in 2012, including an EF4 that hit Harrisburg on Feb. 29 and killed eight people. In all, Illinois' 30 tornadoes caused 111 injuries and nine fatalities.
"The 30-year average in Illinois is 46 tornadoes," according to the National Weather Service. "Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in tornado frequency per square mile."
Here are some facts about severe weather from the National Weather Service and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency:
- In Illinois, most tornadoes occur from April through June. Tornadoes generally strike between the midafternoon and early evening hours.
- There were 124 tornadoes in Illinois in 2006.
- Illinois has an average of 550 reports of wind damage or large hail each year.
- The largest hailstone to fall in Illinois measured 4.5 inches. It fell in Montgomery County on May 28, 2011.
- Twenty-eight people have died due to lightning in Illinois since 1990.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends that residents purchase a NOAA all-hazards weather radio.
Along with having a weather radio, the National Weather Service and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency have many tips on how to stay safe in severe weather.
- Monitor watches and warnings on TV, radio, Internet or through a NOAA all-hazards weather radio. Remember that a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes, while a warning means a tornado either has been sighted by someone or has been indicated on the weather radar.
- If a tornado warning occurs while you are at home, seek shelter in the lowest level of your home or building—like a basement—or in an interior room away from windows. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency adds that if you are in a basement, you should seek shelter under the stairs or under a piece of heavy furniture.
- If you are at a school, hospital, shopping center or other building when a tornado warning occurs, go to the designated storm shelter or a basement. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends that people avoid areas like auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums.
- If you are in your car when a tornado warning is issued, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends exiting your vehicle and taking shelter in a nearby building. Seeking shelter in a ditch should be done only as a last resort if there is no other shelter available.
- During a severe thunderstorm, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends staying away from windows and doors. You also should avoid showering or bathing during a severe thunderstorm due to lightning. If you are driving, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends pulling over to the shoulder, away from trees and power lines. You also should avoid touching metal parts of the car if lightning is nearby.