Every year as we approach and push through the months of spring, severe weather is always a big topic. Perhaps it’s been an even larger topic recently, considering the 11 tornadoes that occurred in early April across the state of Illinois, 7 of which affected the Stateline.
Last night, I was able to attend a symposium where meteorologists from Northern Illinois University and the National Weather Service in Chicago, as well as NIU’s emergency management coordinator spoke on behalf of how a meteorologist interprets severe weather, a breakdown of the April 9th EF-4 tornado, and necessary steps to take to stay safe throughout severe weather.
Ph.D. student Stephen Strader presented research that he has been working on with NIU’s Dr. Walker Ashley, part of it focusing on the path of this tornado. He compared it to the effects it could have had if it was shifted about 12 miles northwest through the Byron nuclear power station, to the southeast through the NIU campus, or even through Chicago. All scenarios that could very well happen, likely causing much more damage.
Senior Meteorologist Gino Izzi of the National Weather Service in Chicago was the meteorologist that was issuing the tornado warnings on April 9th, 2015. He analyzed the radar and explained the different panels used when dissecting a storm. Since a bulk of the audience was the general public, perhaps the biggest takeaway (in my opinion) was his note about his choice on issuing tornado warnings. Among his colleagues, he says he’s been getting the reputation of the “older and more conservative” meteorologist. He explained what that meant when determining whether or not he should issue a tornado warning. The takeaway? There is A LOT of studying, analyzing, thought, and confidence put into the warnings that are issued BEFORE they are issued, so be sure to take them seriously.
Northern Illinois University’s staff meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste talked about staying safe during severe weather. A big note, “have a plan.” At times, you could only have seconds before you’re in the path of danger, and it’s important to have a plan ahead of time. He also noted that many fatalities due to tornadoes are completely preventable, unfortunately people choose to ignore the warning. He gave information on ways to stay safe on the campus, listing all of the resources available to students. He also mentioned the plethora of resources available to the general public when it comes to severe weather. Those include outdoor warning sirens, text warnings, social media posts, weather radios, etc.
So, I ask this question to you: what does it take for you personally to take a tornado warning seriously? The meteorologists that prepared and presented last night at NIU say the whole point was to educate people.
It is so important to continue to conversation of severe weather.
With all of that being said, the 13 Weather Authority is committed to continuing the conversation throughout severe weather season with you. We’ve already begun our Project: Tornado events this week. For the entire month, we are visiting elementary schools across northern Illinois educating kids on severe weather, how to stay safe, and answering questions they may have. Roughly 4,000 students will go home with a Project: Tornado book filled with pictures, games, and knowledge of severe weather.
We’re also beginning our Weather Radio events Friday, May 1st. Our first event will be held at the Schnucks in Cherry Valley from 5PM-7PM. You can stop by and purchase a weather radio, and our team of meteorologists will program it for you for free. It’s easy! Already have a weather radio but need it programmed? Great- bring it to us and we’ll get it set up for you.
We’re doing these events throughout the entire month of May. The list of where we’ll be can be found here: WREX Weather Radio Events. Stay tuned for the list for the month of June.
There are so many continuing conversations about safety on every level, whether it’s texting and driving, Stranger Danger, Click it or Tick it, or Stop, Look & Listen . Let’s add severe weather safety to the list and let’s continue the conversation.
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