It might seem a bit strange to discuss the threat of tornadoes with snow still on the ground, but local emergency services and the National Weather Service want area residents to be aware of the dangers from severe weather during the weeks ahead.
Severe Weather Preparedness Week runs through Saturday. A test of tornado warning systems will begin at 10 a.m. today. That test is of particular importance give the tornado outbreak on Nov. 17 when the town of Gifford in Champaign County was severely damaged. Two twisters also were confirmed on the ground in Vermilion County that afternoon.
The purpose of the week is to encourage families to develop an emergency plan and to become knowledgeable out the terminology weather forecasters and other use when providing information about potentially damaging storms.
Families should decide on the safest place inside their home, at their work or at school. A basement is the best place to go to when the dark clouds begin to gather. If no basement is available, people get to the lowest floor in the building and find a closet or hallways away from windows.
When forecasters see storm clouds beginning to gather, they can issue a watch — which means the potential for severe weather exists — or a warning — which means dangerous weather conditions already are in the area.
Illinois averages 47 tornadoes a year, according to the National Weather Service. The damage they inflict can be devastating, and the storms that spawn them can grow fast and move quickly across the state. Residents should stay away of changing weather conditions and be ready to move to a place of safety should the need arise.
Springtime in the Midwest can be a time of beauty. Spring storms also can create hazardous conditions in a hurry. Be alert and stay safe.