Severe Weather Awareness

April showers will soon bring May flowers and possibly severe thunderstorms, tornados, and floods.

As the clock struck 10 a.m. employees at the Naperville Municipal Center in Naperville rushed to the basement and took cover and they weren’t alone.

Hundreds of people across the state participated in the annual tornado drill during Illinois Severe Weather Awareness Week, a time for residents to prepare for extreme weather.

“I would just encourage everybody to make a plan, and practice it and then come back and talk to their friends and neighbors. That way everybody is prepared because severe weather will happen,” suggested Dan Nelson, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Naperville.

The Midwest usually experiences conditions like thunder and lightning storms, heavy snowfall, tornados, heavy winds, and droughts all conditions in which residents lives could be at risk. Being prepared could make all the difference.

“All individuals are encouraged to have a disaster supply kit, which has enough food, water, medication, and supplies for three to 10 days,” said Nelson.

Smartphones, weather radios, and city sirens can alert anyone of severe weather, which forecasters say they can accurately predict up to a few days in advance.

Jim Allsopp serves as a Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Romeoville. “Once we see the storm developing whether it’s with Doppler radar or a report from a trained spotter, then we would issue the warning and that means the severe weather is occurring and its eminent in your area and you need to get to shelter right now,” he said.

Nelson himself participated in the tornado drill with fellow employees at the Municipal Center. “I would encourage every family to do a drill just like we did there. Where they take two minutes and they tell their kids, ‘Hey, lets all go to where we go if there’s a tornado’ and they practice that,” he said. “I would also encourage them to do a fire drill, the exact same thing. Set off the smoke detectors, because that’s what they would do for real. That way the kids know, the parents know, and everybody is on the same page.”

The weeklong event is also a chance for The National Weather Service to test their system.

“It helps us prepare, we haven’t issued a tornado warning since last summer so it gives us a chance to practice and be ready to issue the warnings. It also tests our communication system and makes sure that when we issue a warning it’s being received at the local level by the media and that warning systems like sirens can be activated,” said Allsopp.

Illinois tornado season is from mid-March through June. The City of Naperville conducts outdoor warning siren testing the first Tuesday of every month. If the siren is heard any other time, an emergency is occurring in the community.

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