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Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Tornado Facts and Safety

The weather is getting warmer, which means that winter is almost over and spring will be here soon.

While the warmer weather is something many people look forward to, increasing temperatures eventually leads to increasing probabilities for severe weather.

This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and our goal is to help prepare you for upcoming future severe weather through facts and safety tips.

Tornado Facts:

Here are some facts about Illinois tornadoes from the National Weather Service:

  • Illinois ranks 4th in the United States for tornadoes per square mile.
  • The 6 months with the most tornadoes are: May, June, April, February, July and November. Not how there is a spring/early summer severe weather season, but also a secondary season during colder months.
  • The majority of tornadoes occur between 3-8 PM, but they can occur at any time of the day. 20% of Illinois tornadoes occur after dark.
  • On average, there are 53 tornadoes each year in Illinois.

Since 1950:

  • Tornadoes have killed 228 people and wounded more than 4,520 in Illinois.
  • 78% of tornadoes in Illinois have been EF-0 or EF-1
  • 21% have been EF-2 or EF-3.
  • 1% have been EF-4 or EF-5.
Enhanced Fujita Scale. Credit: National Weather Service.

Tornado Safety:

One of the most important things when it comes to Tornado Safety is knowing the difference between a watch and a warning.

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for thunderstorms to form that could be capable of producing tornadoes. This is a general "heads up" for an area, and these are issued hours ahead of time.

A Tornado Warning means that a thunderstorm is showing signs of rotation on doppler radar or that a tornado has been spotted on the ground. If you are in an area that is under a Tornado Warning, you need to take immediate safety precautions.

If you need to seek safety from a tornado or severe weather, the safest place to be in underground in a storm shelter or basement. If neither of those are possible to get to, then you should go to an interior room on the lowest level of the building that you are in away from any outside walls or windows.

In this hypothetical house below, areas in green are safe during a tornado and areas in red are not safe.

Wherever your safe place is, it's also a good idea to bring things like helmets, pillows, a mattress etc. with you for extra protection.

If you are outside when a Tornado Warning is issued, seek a safe shelter immediately. If that is not possible, find a ditch to lie in with you arms covering you head and neck.

If you are in a car, do not park under a bridge or overpass. Instead, seek immediate shelter and never try to outdrive a tornado.

Make sure you have more than one way to receive any severe weather warnings, including Tornado Warnings. The best way to get warnings is through a NOAA Weather Radio. You can also download our Heart of Illinois ABC app, which will send warnings to your mobile device.

Download our app here!

When a Tornado Warning is issued, our Storm Alert Team will immediately broadcast on-air and on Facebook Live. We'll continue to provide the latest potentially life-saving information for the duration of the Tornado Warning and until the threat has passed.

The keys to tornado safety are being prepared and reacting when a threat is present, so make sure you know what to do ahead of time and have ways to receive warnings so you can enact your safety plan when needed.

Brian Walder

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