In the mid-2000s, I was in my early 20s. I remember watching Twister starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. It was exciting to watch how some frenzy reporters chase the tornadoes. It is fun yet a risky trade. This nicely brings me to my topic of the day which is tornados in Illinois. Before delving into the topic for those who do not know, a tornado extends from the thunderstorm to the ground in the shape of a violent air column.
Some official stats
According to Illinois State Climatologist "tornadoes can and do occur at any time of the year. Peak tornado frequency in Illinois is between April and June. Tornadoes tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings with 50% occurring between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Illinois average 54 tornadoes per year based on the 1991-2020 data."
The official data shows that Illinois is hit by almost 54 tornados on yearly basis. In 2006, the number was staggering as 126 tornados were recorded by the official department.
The velocity of the air column caused by a tornado can be so dangerous that it can destroy any object in its way. The Illinois State Climatologist further notes that "Illinois has experienced two of the worst tornadoes in the nation’s history: the infamous Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925, which resulted in 695 deaths, 2000 injuries, and $130 million in property damage; and the Mattoon tornado of May 26, 1917, which resulted in 101 deaths, 638 injuries, and $55 million in property damage."
How to protect yourself?
A tornado is a fierce form of natural disaster that can occur anytime but a lot of data is available now for the general public to read and be ready when it hits your area. When a tornado is formed, you can be anywhere such as home, work, or out shopping. You should not try to over-run a tornado. One thing you should not and can not do is, outrun a tornado. You might attempt to do that if you are driving a car but that is still very dangerous as the air column carries debris in it that can kill you if it hits you due to its sheer speed.
A publication from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency advises that if you are on the move when a tornado hits "Do NOT park under a bridge or overpass. The embankment under an overpass is higher than the surrounding terrain, and the wind speed increases with height. Additionally, the overpass design may create a wind-tunnel effect under the span, further increasing the wind speed. Many overpasses are completely exposed underneath, and most lack hanging girders or a crawlspace-like area to provide sufficient protection from debris, which can travel at high speeds even in weak tornadoes. People stopping underneath overpasses block the flow of traffic, putting others in danger".
The best thing you can do to avoid the tornado is to seek shelter under or inside a sturdy building. If you have a basement nearby that is accessible, seek shelter there immediately. Do not wait to collect your belongings as every second count in a situation like this.
According to Illinois Emergency Management Agency, if you are at your workplace or school, or university, it is best to get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench, heavy table, or desk, and hold onto it. If sturdy furniture is not available, you can try making yourself the smallest target possible. Ideally, you can squat low to the ground, put your head down and cover your head and neck with your hands.
More tornado warnings in 2021
Data obtained by the NWS shows that there have been more tornado and thunderstorm warnings in 2021than the previous years. It is worth mentioning that this year has seen three different warnings. These were issued by the NWS Offices for our viewing area. One of them has been a tornado warning.