How to be prepared for severe weather


The sky illuminates as lightning strikes during an intense thunderstorm. Lightning is one of nature’s leading killers.

  The summer in Illinois brings both high temperatures and significant severe weather potential; here is a brief recap of what has already happened this spring and a few ways to be prepared for the unexpected.

  The midwest has already seen a few severe weather events unfold this spring. March 31 saw the first high convective risk issued for Illinois by the Storm Prediction Center since November 17, 2013. A total of 30 tornadoes touched down across the Quad Cities National Weather Service county warning area. In addition to the tornadoes, there were many reports of large hail and damaging winds; some of the said winds were estimated to be up to 80 to 90 mph.

  In addition to other events on April 4 & 5, on April 20, yet another powerful storm system moved northeast, with some surpassing the severe threshold, producing hail of up to golf ball size and some tornadoes.

  So, now that you know the capability of severe storms, how should one be prepared for severe weather? Here are a few things you can do to help you be prepared and a few things you shouldn’t do.

  1) Secure and/or move valuable objects inside

  Objects like outdoor tables, chairs, garbage cans, grills, and valuables like cars should be moved indoors. Excessive straight-line winds can cause those objects to become flying missiles. I have seen grills get blown over by the wind and windshields shattered by large hail.

  2) Pick out a viable shelter

  A basement or storm cellar is convenient for a tornado or derecho situation. My house has a partially finished basement, and this is where I go. If you don’t have a basement, your shelter can be an interior bathroom or closet on the lowest floor of your home. If you are on the open road, either park your vehicle and stay put or get into a ditch and lie flat with your hands over your head.

  3) Have multiple ways to receive warnings and watches

  I own seven of these, and they are absolute lifesavers. If you don’t know what a NOAA Weather Radio is, it is essentially a smoke detector except for severe weather. It monitors the National Weather Service’s weather radio bands, and when an alert is issued, a loud tone sounds on the radio for about ten seconds, then the broadcast comes on automatically to tell you why it just activated.

  You could also use your cell phone to receive warning bulletins as well through weather apps or the Wireless Emergency Alert system; however, I wouldn’t bank on your phone to get warnings.

  4) Charge all of your devices

  Especially if you expect the power to be knocked out, charging your electronic devices beforehand isn’t a bad idea. Also, make sure your NOAA Weather Radio has those AA batteries for backup purposes!

  Now, that’s helpful in all, but what shouldn’t you do?

  DON’T DO THIS: Rely on outdoor sirens for warnings.

  Sirens are only meant to be heard outdoors. I live between two sirens. Yes, I can hear them when there is a warning; however, I only hear sirens after my radios have already activated. I was once placed under a tornado warning at 9 p.m., and the sirens didn’t start until 9:20 p.m.. Waiting on a siren can cost you valuable time.

  DON’T DO THIS: Shelter anywhere near outside walls or under highway overpasses.

  Do not shelter in the garage. The garage door is the first thing blown out by either a tornado or excessive straight-line winds. Flying debris causes damage to roofs and windows, meaning going upstairs is not the best choice. Also, never go under highway overpasses since you’re at a greater risk of being hit by debris.

  With these tips, the hope is that you are now part of a Weather-Ready nation and are prepared to take action against a tornado or severe thunderstorm!