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Be safe outside ‘Tornado Alley’

Illinois has been vulnerable to big twisters in past

This might not be the heart of “Tornado Alley,” but our area is hardly immune to the kind of catastrophic events that struck Moore, Okla., [last] week.

Utica, less than 60 miles south of DeKalb, was hit by an F3 tornado in April 2004 that killed eight people. Illinois is the site of multiple tornadoes every year, including last year, when the National Weather Service said that 30 tornadoes were observed, including one Feb. 29 that killed eight in southern Illinois.

Tornadoes in Illinois are most common from April through June, the Weather Service says. In other words, right now.

Tips for tornado preparedness include:

n Know where to take shelter in your home, school or workplace. Recommended shelter areas are in the basement under the stairwell, or interior closets or small rooms away from windows on the ground floor of the building.

n In a disaster, firefighters may not be available to help immediately. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for some period of time by putting together an emergency supply kit with first-aid supplies, food, water and other necessities.

n Plan for how you will get in touch with family members after a disaster. Designated meeting places are one way to do this. 

n Weather radios that pick up National Weather Service broadcasts are also recommended.

This also is a good time for businesses, school officials and others to review their tornado response plans to ensure they can work as efficiently and safely as possible.

And the tragedy should also be a reminder to us that those periodic tests of the emergency broadcast system or the local warning siren are more than just background noise.

As we saw [in Oklahoma], tornadoes can strike with little warning.

Obviously, rebuilding will be a daunting task for the newest tornado victims, and they will need help. Already, Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder has pledged $1 million to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for the relief effort – a remarkable gesture for which he should be commended.

Those who would like to follow his example can donate online at www.redcross.org/charitable-donations. To donate $10 to the relief fund, text “REDCROSS” to 90999 on a mobile phone, or call 1-800-733-2767.

Although we all hope never to go through what residents in Moore experienced, it’s critical to remember that tornadoes happen here, too, and we must be prepared to act quickly if the time comes.

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