Tornado preparedness is important all year long
THE ISSUE: Illinois has a recorded history of a tornado in every month of the year.
OUR VIEW: Storm safety can never be taken lightly.
December has just begun and already Illinois is breaking records. According to the National Weather Service, in a rare December outbreak, a storm system unleashed 26 tornadoes in central Illinois last Saturday.
Although many believe December temperatures to be too cold for tornadic activity, the actual ground temperature matters less than the difference between the air on the ground and the air higher in the atmosphere. When the difference is wide, the two air masses can collide and form dangerous, tornado-producing storms.
The previous record for Illinois tornado outbreaks occurred in 1957 when, on Dec. 18-19, 21 tornadoes tore through the state. The last December tornadoes in Illinois took place on Dec. 23, 2015, when six twisters formed. While not common, winter tornadoes do happen and, obviously, can be extremely dangerous and destructive.
While damage in Macoupin County was limited, the city of Taylorville, in Christian County, as well as some structures in Montgomery County, suffered significant damage. Although there is little you can do to protect your home when a tornado is headed its way, steps can be taken to keep yourself and loved ones safe.
While no fatalities have been associated with Saturday’s storms, dozens of people were injured – some seriously. Historically, fatalities were reported in tornadoes that hit Illinois in 1950, 1951 and 1982.
When it comes to tornado safety, time is the most important element. There was a time when rural communities relied almost entirely on their community’s outdoor siren alert system. While sirens are still often used, they are designed to reach people who are outdoors and, often, can’t be heard by those inside. Luckily, there are apps that can be downloaded provide you with a notification if there is the possibility of a dangerous storm. Apps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Weather Channel both offer this service; however, it’s important to make sure such notifications are activated.
A weather radio is another way to be alerted quickly if conditions are ripe for a tornado. Weather radios are self-activating and have a battery back-up in case of a power outage. Police scanners also have a channel dedicated to weather broadcasting, but not all police scanners have a battery back-up, so pay attention to your unit’s capabilities.
Identify a safe location to go when severe weather hits. During a crisis is not the time to decide where to go for safety. Plan ahead of time to seek shelter in an underground space or in an interior room of your home.
If you are outdoors and cannot get to a building, try to find a low area, like a ditch or culvert, and cover yourself as best you can, protecting your head with your arms. Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.
After the storm, listen to your weather radio for the latest information. Avoid downed power lines. If you are trapped, cover your mouth with cloth to keep from inhaling dust. Try to communicate using text messages or social media as phone service is often overloaded or down following a storm.
During cleanup, wear heavy-soled shoes, gloves, heavy pants and long-sleeved shirts. Never enter a damaged building until it’s been declared safe.
The hours and days following a serious storm or tornado are not for curiosity seeking. Avoid areas where first responders, as well as public works and street department workers, are trying to do their jobs. It’s impossible to know which areas are safe and which are not, so it’s best to just stay away.
A complete rundown of all safety measures that should be taken before, during and after a storm is available at ready.gov.