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Oliver: Now’s the time to prepare for storm season

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 11:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 6:57 a.m. CDT

That hailstorm more than a week ago should serve as a wake-up call that springtime is more than just sunshine and scilla.

Spring also marks the beginning of the time when our area sees its greatest threat of severe weather, particularly tornadoes. Although tornadoes can strike at any time of year, as evidenced by the one that hit in January 2008.

I’ve seen the damage that twisters can cause, and I’m not one to take chances. So I was happy to read in a recent story by reporter Shawn Shinneman that the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency has created a website – McHenryAware.com – to provide us with emergency information.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should.

On the website you’ll find information about weather radios, how to get text alerts, how to use the county’s 2-1-1 system and a listing of resources in townships and municipalities. 

There’s even information about flooding. Residents can report flooding and other damage through an online form.

Those with smartphones also have the option of obtaining apps that can provide severe weather alerts. For example, the American Red Cross has a new one this year called the Tornado Warning & Alert App. 

Another good way to be prepared is to have a NOAA weather radio. This is especially important for those who live where they cannot hear their town’s tornado sirens and don’t have access to a smartphone app.

Among the things the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards system broadcasts are tornado and flood warnings, Amber Alerts, and chemical spill messages. You can even get routine weather forecasts.

To learn more about the radios, visit NOAA’s weather radio page at www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=nwr.

Here are a few tornado season tips from the National Weather Service (www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html):

• At home, practice a family tornado drill at least once a year.

• Store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc.) in or next to your shelter space.

• Avoid windows.

• Get in the basement or under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.

• Know where very heavy objects (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) rest on the floor above and do not go under them.

• If you don’t have a basement, go to the lowest floor and into an interior room. A closet or bathroom is recommended.

• If you’re in a vehicle, remember that they are easily tossed and destroyed by tornadoes. Your best bet is to take shelter in a sturdy building. If that’s not possible, lie flat in a low spot or ditch as far from the road as possible to avoid flying vehicles. Do not park under a bridge or underpass.

While we’re at it, now’s also a good time to make a “go kit.” 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that families have enough food, water and supplies on hand to go for at least 72 hours. 

A number of websites provide helpful information about how to build a kit:

• FEMA: ready.gov

• American Red Cross: redcross.org

• Gear Up Get Ready: gearupgetready.org

• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: noaa.gov

Here’s hoping we won’t need to put any of this into practice, but it’s a good idea to be ready for anything.

After all, we live in Illinois, right?

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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