Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Severe Weather Preparedness


By Jason Marks, Director, Peoria County Emergency Management Agency and Preparedness

Every year in the United States, hundreds of people are killed, and thousands are injured due to severe weather. Dangerous weather can happen at any time of the year and can take many forms ranging from violent spring tornadoes to crippling winter snow and ice storms.

Many of us are aware of the weather hazards which affect our lives in Peoria County, and we generally know the time of year these hazards typically occur. Fall can bring an uptick in severe weather and tornados. Winter typically increases our risk of ice storms and blizzards. Spring and Summer can be notorious for severe and destructive thunderstorms with hail, wind, and tornados. While we cannot stop dangerous weather from occurring, we can take steps to build personal and community resilience and understand the threats to safety when the sky turns grey.

Weather safety and survival depend on key items when preparing for dangerous weather. Knowing the specific weather risks in your region and when to expect dangerous weather are the foundational blocks of being prepared.

The National Weather Service (NWS) monitors forecasts and climate data around the country. When it detects a potentially serious weather pattern, the Storm Prediction Center issues various convection outlooks and mesoscale discussions to assist regional and local meteorologists to determine the probability for a severe weather event. These outlooks may result in local advisories, watches, and warnings. Knowing the difference between these three alerts, as well as the actions that should be when they are issued, can help you and your community to take appropriate safety precautions.

Being ready for issuance of the three basic alerts—storm advisories, watches, and warnings—can keep individuals and communities informed as we all anticipate severe weather. Having a plan in place before a storm can also help. Each family member should be part of this emergency planning process, so they know what the alerts mean and what protective actions to take. Know the alerts:

  • What is a “storm advisory”?
    A storm advisory is issued when conditions are favorable to occur. Advisories help us to watch for conditions that may cause travel difficulties. Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • What is a “storm watch”?
    A storm watch means severe weather hasn’t occurred yet, but upcoming weather conditions are expected to produce potentially dangerous weather, such as heavy rain, hail, or strong winds. Weather conditions are expected to change quickly. Be prepared for extreme weather conditions.
  • What is a “storm warning”?
    A storm warning indicates meteorologists have already observed severe conditions. If you hear a storm warning has been issued, it means potentially dangerous weather is imminent in or near your location. Depending on the type of weather warning, take appropriate action, such as sheltering in place, as quickly and safely as possible. Be warned to take action.

Remember, there is no prescribed order for issuing advisories, watches, and warnings for weather conditions—they may come one at a time or jump to the most severe alert.

Over the past years, meteorological data and climate change have begun to show a real rise in weather-related disasters. As a result, our communities are finding themselves at a greater risk of many different events. These events can range from regional ice storms eliminating electrical power for thousands of individuals, to isolated pockets of rainfall leading to flooded streets and neighborhoods. Periodically taking a few moments to review the hazards you may face at home, at school, or at work not only benefits you and your family, but also strengthens the community resilience required to withstand and recover from emergencies and disasters.

Read more about Emergency Preparedness and how to prepare an emergency plan at the Peoria City/County Health Department website Catch up on weather preparedness at the regional National Weather Service website at

Jason Marks is Director of Peoria County Emergency Management Agency and Preparedness at Peoria City/County Health Department. Jason has expertise in local, state, and national emergency response programs that train communities to respond to disasters and pandemics.