ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Today is the beginning of Illinois Severe Weather Preparedness Week.  It runs through the 10th. Meteorologist Savanna Brito has what you need to know when severe weather threatens.  

A tornado can strike anywhere, at any time, but is most common in April, May, and June during the late afternoon, evening, and early nighttime hours. Tornadoes can also occur during the early morning.

Violent tornadoes, which are EF2 or higher, are most common in April.  May typically has the highest tornado count. The month of June has the most tornado days.

It’s the National Weather Service that issues tornado watches, warnings, and even on a very rare occasion, a tornado emergency. A WATCH means conditions are favorable for severe weather to occur.  During a watch, you should keep an eye on weather conditions.  Have your severe weather plan in place and be ready to act if a warning is issued.  A WARNING means severe weather is happening now.  You need to take action and get to a safe place immediately.  During a tornado warning, the National Weather Service may issue a tornado emergency.  This means there is a confirmed, violent tornado producing catastrophic damage and there is severe threat to human life.

A basement is the safest place to be during severe weather.  If a basement is not available, go to an interior room, on the lowest level in your home or building. Stay away from windows, doors or exterior rooms. If you are on the road and can safely get out of your car and get inside, do that. The next best option is to lie down in a ditch, making sure to cover your head and neck. A highway overpass is one of the worst places to be during a tornado, because you are more exposed to higher wind speeds, and flying debris. You never want to try and outrun a tornado.

It is important to have a severe weather safety plan at home, work, school and even your place of worship. Discussing that plan with your family, co-workers or others can help you get to shelter faster when severe weather breaks out. 

Make sure you add a severe weather safety kit to that safety plan. Important items include: a weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries, matches in a waterproof case, candle, non-perishable snacks and water bottles, an emergency blanket, extra cash set of keys and clothes, and a first aid kit and medicine.

Other severe weather threats that happen in the Stateline are flash flooding, lightning, damaging winds, and hail.

On average, flooding is one of the top weather related fatalities each year in the United States.  Never cross a flooded road or area.  You do not know how deep the water is or if the ground beneath has been washed away. Just 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry away an adult. 12 inches of fast-moving water can carry away a small car. And it only takes 18 to 24 inches to wash-away large SUVs, vans, and trucks. If flash flooding occurs, move to higher ground immediately.

During a lightning storm, the safest place to be is indoors away from windows or inside a vehicle. Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or even death. According to the NWS, on average, 10% of strike victims die and 70% of survivors suffer serious long-term effects. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you, even if skies look clear or are blue.  Lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. In fact, 10% of lightning happens without visible clouds overhead in the sky! If you hear thunder, immediately get to a safe place.

Severe thunderstorm winds can be just as damaging as a tornado. Wind speeds can reach in excess of 100 mph, just like they did in the August 2020 derecho, and the storm that swept through during the pre-dawn hours on July 5th, 2003. 

Quarter or larger size hail can dent vehicles and damage plants. With strong winds, quarter and larger hail can even break windows. Golf ball or larger hail will damage vehicles, break windows, damage plants and crops, and cause bodily harm.

The First Warn Weather Team will keep you informed both online and on-air to get you prepared for this year’s severe weather season.

Wisconsin’s Severe Weather Preparedness Week is April 17-21st.