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Sebenste: NIU readies for Severe Weather Preparedness Week

February 24, 2016
An early shot of the tornado near Franklin Grove, Ill. Photo courtesy Walker Ashley, NIU Deparment of Geography

An early shot of the April 9 tornado near Franklin Grove, Ill.
Photo courtesy Walker Ashley, NIU Department of Geography

Each year, Illinois gets hit with more than 60 tornadoes, on average, and ranks in the Top 10 for the most tornadoes of any state in the nation.

The odds of one or more tornadoes hitting a portion of DeKalb County is at least one in three every year. Our area also encounters 60 mph winds and/or one-inch diameter hail or larger approximately twice each year.

Flooding can also be a local weather hazard, as it was in August 2007, when flash flooding as result of heavy rains rendered a number of campus roads impassable and forced the university to shut down for much of a day.

Gov. Rauner has declared the week of Feb. 29 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the State of Illinois.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, all K-12 schools will participate in the annual statewide tornado drill. All NOAA Weather Radios will alert for a test tornado warning, the outdoor warning sirens statewide will go off and cable TV and media may interrupt programming to broadcast the test tornado warning.

At that time, think about where you would go in the event of a tornado here at NIU, or where you live, so that you can protect yourself when severe weather occurs.

National Weather Service logoAt NIU, nearly every building has designated shelter locations.

You can access campus shelter locations via the NIU Mobile app by clicking on “Maps.” Then, from the drop-down menu, click on “Public Safety.” Clicking on the tornado symbols will provide information on the tornado locations in each building on campus. If you are on a laptop or desktop computer, go to the NIU 3D interactive map and click on the “Public Safety” box from the drop-down menu. By clicking on the tornado icons, you can see where exactly you need to go should a tornado warning be issued.

The university has redundant methods to alert its staff and students when a weather emergency happens or in case there is a failure due to power or technical issues. More than 300 weather radios are placed in offices and in almost every building on campus. The weather radios broadcast severe weather warnings that are transmitted by the National Weather Service. NIU’s campus cable Channel 35 will “crawl” the warning at the bottom of the screen, and an audio version of the warning will also be delivered on the campus cable channel.

The university community is advised take the time to review the best path to reach a severe weather shelter from various locations on campus. Additionally, individuals can subscribe to weather alerts by going to the NIU Weather website and clicking on “campus weather safety” and then “subscribe to weather notifications.” The severe weather alerts are also displayed on NIU Weather website. Smartphones have the ability to generate alerts for tornado warnings through the phone service provider.

The university’s Emergency Notification System is available in most campus buildings to alert students, faculty and staff of dangerous weather and other hazards. Also, DeKalb will activate its outdoor sirens citywide when a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service and is deemed is an imminent threat to safety of citizens within the community.

Gilbert Sebenste

Gilbert Sebenste

These university-wide systems provide NIU faculty, staff, students and guests a variety of resources from which they can be alerted to severe weather situations.

The entire university community is encouraged to subscribe to the NIU Weather notifications and to utilize the available university emergency preparedness resources in an effort to be well informed on how to stay safe during severe weather situations. Individuals can also “like” NIU Weather on Facebook and Twitter.

The city of DeKalb is an active partner in the university’s severe weather preparedness efforts. DeKalb recently joined NIU as a certified “StormReady” community and was also designated as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors by the National Weather Service for its level of weather-threat preparation and mitigation.

In 2002, NIU was the first university in the country to be certified StormReady. The university is also a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador.

Gilbert Sebenste is the staff meteorologist at Northern Illinois University.