Tornado season calls for preparedness

By Steve Carasso

The National Weather Service in conjunction with the state of Illinois have designated this week as Tornado Preparedness Week.

Since the spring is the most vulnerable season for tornado activity, the week has been set up in order to educate and inform people about tornados and what to do if one should happen to strike.

NIU Geography Professor Allen Staver said tornados thrive in certain conditions. “Tornados tend to occur when the temperature is above 60 degrees and a lot of moisture is present in the air. Cold air is doing battle with the warm air which produces unstable conditions,” he said. “Thunderstorms are also associated with tornados.”

“Funnel clouds that drop out of the thunderstorm are the characteristic that most people see,” Staver said.

Tornados possess tremendous power and have patterns in which they travel. “The inside of the tornado can have winds up to 200 m.p.h.,” Staver said. “They also tend to travel 80 percent of the time from southwest to northwest.”

Although tornados are prevalent in the spring, they can happen at any time. For instance, the tornado that struck the Joliet suburb of Plainfield two years ago occurred in the fall.

There are many precautions that one should take if a tornado is approaching. “Finding secure shelter is very important. Going to a basement and hiding in a safe spot is advised so to protect yourself from falling debris,” Staver said. “If you are outside or in a car, you should leave the car immediately and find a low lying spot to lay in.”

One should also use their hands to protect their head from falling debris, he added.

“Windows can be opened, but it’s not necessary to do so,” he said. “The force of the tornado will probably shatter the windows no matter if they’re open or not.” The practice of finding a southeast corner to hide in is also a myth.

It is also important for people to heed information that comes from the National Weather Service. “People should stay tuned to the latest weather reports,” Staver said. “Tornado watches and warnings should be taken into account and taken seriously.”

Although weather terminology is sometimes confusing, Staver gave the proper definitions of two common terms. A tornado watch means that the conditions are suitable for a tornado to occur. A tornado warning means that someone has spotted and reported a tornado.