With spring around the corner, Elgin Fire Department along with the National Weather Service is urging residents to create a severe weather safety plan for homes, schools and workplaces.
“Spring brings with it unstable and sometimes violent weather,” said Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy. “Tornadoes, lightning, flash floods, damaging winds and destructive hail can do a lot of damage to homes, businesses and schools.”
Knowing what to expect and creating a safety plan can help save lives, according to Fahy and the National Weather Service.
A tornado watch mean severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible and citizens should be prepared to move to safety. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted and citizens should move to a place of safety immediately.
• In a home, go to a basement, under a stairwell or under a heavy piece of furniture. If there is no basement, go to an interior closet, hall or bathroom on the lowest floor and stay away from windows.
• In schools, hospitals, churches and office buildings, go to small interior rooms or halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from windows. Avoid large open areas with free span roofs such as gymnasiums and cafeterias.
• In steel and concrete high rise buildings, it is not necessary to get to the lowest floor, but go to interior halls, bathrooms or closets. Stay away from windows.
• In shopping centers, avoid large open areas and glass. Seek shelter in bathrooms, small interior spaces and behind counters. Do not attempt to escape in your vehicle.
• Abandon mobile homes and vehicles for a nearby reinforced building. As a last resort lie flat in a ditch. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.
Lightning is the most frequent important weather threat to personal safety during the thunderstorm season. Keep these lightning safety tips in mind;
Plan ahead and avoid dangerous lightning situations. Check the latest forecast before going outdoors for extended periods. Watch for storms and seek shelter indoors when storms approach.
Lightning often strikes the tallest object. If caught outdoors during a storm, don’t stand next to tall trees or power poles. And don’t be out in an open area where you may be the tallest object. A closed, hard top metal vehicle is safe in a thunderstorm. An open structure such as a picnic shelter will keep you dry but it will not protect you from lightning.
If boating or swimming, get out of the water when storms approach and seek shelter indoors.
Avoid using electrical appliances, corded telephones and metal plumbing when indoors during a thunderstorm. It is okay to use a cell phone or cordless phone.
The best way to stay safe from lightning is to go indoors as soon as there is a threat.
Flash Flood Safety
A flash flood is a rapid rise in creeks and streams, or serious urban flooding, caused by heavy rain from thunderstorms, which poses a threat to life and property. Floods and flash floods kill more people nationwide than any other storm hazard. In Illinois, most flash floods occur in July and August, and they often occur at night. Last year, two people died in flooding in Illinois.
About half of all flash flood related deaths occur in vehicles. Don’t drive through flooded roads, especially if the water is moving rapidly. Flooded or washed out roads are especially difficult to see at night.
Don’t let children play near storm drains, creeks or flooded areas.
If you live near a creek or stream, evacuate to higher ground if water rises rapidly or if a flash flood warning is issued.
Urban flooding is also potentially dangerous. Heavy rain that results in flooding of streets, viaducts and underpasses in an urban area can pose a threat to motorists. Heavy rain can also result in flooded basements, ponding of water in low spots and rapid flooding of drainage ditches and storm sewer systems.
Severe Thunderstorm Safety
Severe thunderstorms pose a threat to life and property. They produce damaging downburst winds of around 60 mph or greater, and/or large destructive hail one inch diameter or greater. Flooding rains, frequent cloud to ground lightning, and tornadoes are also possible in severe thunderstorms.
A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in the next few hours. Be prepared.
A severe thunderstorm warning means a thunderstorm capable of causing property damage and injury has been sighted or detected by radar. Go indoors and stay away from windows.
Damaging straight line or downburst winds from a thunderstorm can do as much damage as a weak to moderate tornado, so take severe thunderstorm warnings seriously.
Very large hail, golf ball or larger, is not only very destructive, but it occurs with the most violent of storms.
“Knowing what to do during severe weather is important,” said Fahy. “It can help save a life.”