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Plan now to cope with storms

Today marks the end of Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Even though snow is still on the ground, the season of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is near. Plan ahead to minimize the impact of a severe storm. Preparedness saves lives.

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

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While Sauk Valley residents just got finished digging and plowing their way out of another snowstorm, it’s not too early to prepare for rough weather that could be ahead this spring.

That’s the message of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which started Sunday and ends today.

People need only consider what happened last year in southern Illinois to be reminded of the devastation that wind storms can cause.

An EF4 tornado struck Harrisburg on Feb. 29, killing eight people and destroying many houses and businesses.

A greater example of nature’s fury happened in Joplin, Mo., the year before, when a mile-wide EF5 tornado struck in May, killing about 160 people and causing tremendous property damage.

Illinois averages 46 tornadoes a year and many more severe thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.

In fact, 13 Illinoisans were injured by strong winds during severe thunderstorms last year.

Experts call on the public to be prepared for storms in the following ways:

1) Stay informed. Weather alert radios are a good bet, as are local radio and TV broadcasts, National Weather Service websites, and various apps for smart phones and computers.

Also, at Sauk Valley Media’s website, saukvalley.com, people can sign up to receive text alerts that relay reports about severe weather. To do so, click the “txtAlert” link at the top of the web page and follow the instructions.

2) Have an emergency plan. Know a safe place to seek shelter during a storm, whether at home, at work, at school, or while traveling. It’s a good idea to designate places to meet if separated from family, co-workers, etc.

3) Prepare yourself and your home. Learn how to turn off the electricity, gas and water supplies, for example. It’s always a good idea to learn CPR. Got a fire extinguisher? If not, buy one and learn to use it.

4) Prepare an emergency supply kit. Some people use those large, sturdy plastic storage containers. Fill one with useful items in the event power is lost – things like bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, extra batteries, extra clothing, blankets, cash, an extra set of keys, medications, first aid kit, personal hygiene items, pet supplies, and a radio.

Weather records indicate April, May and June are the most hazardous months for tornadoes in Illinois; about 80 percent of tornadoes have struck during those 3 months.

While we can hope for a quiet spring, it’s best to be prepared for a rough one.

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