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A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. If someone has been struck by lightning, call 911 immediately.

Tornado Watch and Warning

A tornado watch means that conditions are right for a tornado. Always stay tuned to a radio or television for further developments during a tornado watch period. A tornado warning means the National Weather Service has sighted or detected a tornado on radar. Take cover immediately. Tornadoes strike fast—often within minutes.

If there is a tornado warning, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency suggests:

  • In a house or small building, go to the basement. If there is no basement, go to an interior part of the structure on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway). Get under a sturdy table; protect your head. Stay there until the danger has passed.
  • In a school, go to the designated shelter area. Interior hallways on the lowest floors are usually the safest. Stay away from windows and open spaces.
  • In a multiple story building, go to small interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor possible.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out immediately and go to a more substantial structure. Do not attempt to outrun a tornado. Tornadoes are erratic and move swiftly.
  • If there is no structure nearby, seek shelter in a low-lying area. Shield your head with your hands.



Each year, according to the National Weather Service, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Of these deaths, many are preventable.

If Flooding occurs, the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends the following:

  • Floodwater may contain sewage and agricultural by-products. When entering an area or building where flooding has occurred, wear protective clothing such as boots, rubber gloves and long-sleeved shirts to help reduce contact with contaminated items.
  • Listen for any public announcements on the safety of the area drinking water following a significant flood.
  • Any food product that comes into contact with floodwater should be disposed of.
  • Electrical services that have been in contact with floodwater should be checked by a licensed electrician prior to reenergizing them. If you see sparks or there is a burning odor, call 911.
  • If you smell natural gas in your home, leave and call 911 to have the fire department respond.
  • Non-permeable areas that were contaminated may be cleaned by mixing ½ cup of bleach in a gallon of water.
  • Carpets should be professionally treated or steamed clean and treated to prevent mold.
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