With temperatures slowly starting to climb up to normal averages for this time of year, the threat of tornados and severe thunderstorms are also on the rise.
The city of Joliet last week reminded residents of some important preparedness and safety tips to keep in mind if confronted with one of nature’s most violent storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storm Laboratory says about 1,200 tornadoes are reported in the U.S. each year, most commonly in the central plains and southeastern portions of the country. In the upper Midwest and northern plains, tornado season typically falls between June and July. However, weather experts warn that these deadly storms can occur any time of year.
When starting to prepare for these storms, the city recommends building an emergency kit and making a family communications plan. Be aware of changing weather conditions and listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. Tornadoes are formed from powerful thunderstorms, which typically produced a number of warning signs. During these storms, residents are urged to look for dark or greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating); and a loud roar similar to a freight train.
Tornadoes are narrow columns of air that rotate violently and extend from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. They are often hard to see unless a funnel cloud, or condensation funnel, made up of dust, debris and water droplets forms. Below are a number of precautions to take in the event of a tornado watch or warning.
If a tornado “watch” is issued for your area, it means that weather conditions are favorable for a tornado. Gather items like water, weather radio with extra batteries, snacks, blankets, and flashlights; Keep a radio or local area TV station on so you will have access to the most up-to-date storm information, also available at www.willcountyema.org/noaa.php;
Limit travel during a tornado watch
One of the most dangerous places you can be during a tornado is in your car; Keep alert and watch for changing weather conditions;
Be ready to seek shelter at a moment’s notice; Place small objects such as garbage cans, bicycles and patio furniture inside; and Keep children under close supervision. If a tornado “warning” is issued, it means that a tornado has either been indicated by radar or observed by spotters. A warning means there is a serious threat to life and property and it is time to go to a safe shelter immediately.
Inside when a warning is issued
Make sure you have a portable radio, preferably NOAA Weather Radio, for weather alerts and updates; Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home, such as a basement or storm cellar. If you don’t have a basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room or a closet; Keep away from all windows and glass doorways; If you’re in a building such as a church, hospital, school or office building, go to the innermost part of the building on the lowest floor;
Do not use elevators because the power may fail, leaving you trapped; Cushion yourself with a mattress, but don’t cover yourself with one; Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass; Don’t waste time moving mattresses around; Keep pets on a leash or in a crate or carrier; Stay inside until you are certain the storm has passed, as multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm; Do not leave a building to attempt to “escape” a tornado.
Outside when a warning is issued
Try to get inside a building as quickly as possible and find a small, protected space away from windows; Avoid buildings with long-span roof areas such as a school gymnasium, arena or shopping mall, as these structures are usually supported only by outside walls. When hit by a tornado, buildings like these can collapse because they cannot withstand the pressure of the storm.