Did you know that it's Illinois Severe Weather Preparedness Week?
According to the National Weather Service, there were 1,700 tornadoes in the United States in 2011. Fifty-nine of those were deemed "killer tornadoes," with 550 lives lost.
Already this year, there have been a number of damaging tornadoes, including one that struck Harrisburg, Ill., last week.
Here are some facts about severe weather from the National Weather Service and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency:
- In Illinois, most tornadoes occur from April through June. Tornadoes generally strike between the midafternoon and early evening hours.
- Illinois had 73 tornadoes in 2011. The annual average is 46.
- There were 124 tornadoes in Illinois in 2006.
- Illinois has an average of 550 reports of wind damage or large hail each year.
- The largest hailstone to fall in Illinois measured 4.5 inches. It fell in Montgomery County on May 28, 2011.
- Twenty-eight people have died due to lightning in Illinois since 1990.
A statewide tornado drill will be held at 10 a.m. March 6, with test warnings on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, weather radios, along with on television and radio. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends that residents purchase a NOAA all-hazards weather radio.
Along with having a weather radio, the National Weather Service and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency have many tips on how to stay safe in severe weather.
- Monitor watches and warnings on TV, radio, Internet or through a NOAA all-hazards weather radio. Remember that a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes, while a warning means a tornado either has been sighted by someone or has been indicated on the weather radar.
- If a tornado warning occurs while you are at home, seek shelter in the lowest level of your home or building — like a basement — or in an interior room away from windows. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency adds that if you are in a basement, you should seek shelter under the stairs or under a piece of heavy furniture.
- If you are at a school, hospital, shopping center or other building when a tornado warning occurs, go to the designated storm shelter or a basement. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends that people avoid areas like auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums.
- If you are in your car when a tornado warning is issued, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends exiting your vehicle and taking shelter in a nearby building. Seeking shelter in a ditch should be done only as a last resort if there is no other shelter available.
- During a severe thunderstorm, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends staying away from windows and doors. You also should avoid showering or bathing during a severe thunderstorm due to lightning. If you are driving, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends pulling over to the shoulder, away from trees and power lines. You also should avoid touching metal parts of the car if lightning is nearby.