Severe weather risk to continue Thursday

Stephanie Markham, News Editor

Much of the Midwest including East Central Illinois will be at an enhanced risk for severe weather Thursday with the potential for damaging winds, large hail and a few tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.

Cameron Craig, Eastern climatologist, said because of the potential for severe weather, people should monitor TV, AM or FM radio for watches or warnings.

“If you’re going to go out to the bars, it’s a good idea to check the forecast,” he said. “Check the National Weather Service website to see if there are any hazards expected.”

Craig said a watch is issued when conditions are favorable and people should monitor the situation, while a warning occurs when severe weather has been reported. At that point, people should take immediate action by seeking shelter.

“On campus we’ve got our siren system, so people should be aware of what to do, have a plan in action,” he said.

He said the area currently in watch has a 45 percent chance of experiencing some sort of extreme severe weather Thursday.

The Charleston area saw 0.5-inch hail at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, while Champaign had nickel-sized hail and west of the Champaign area had 2.5-inch hail, Craig said.

Dan Ensen, the director of the Coles County emergency management agency, said the severe weather season usually starts in April and lasts for four or five months.

“This is not an anomaly that we just get this storm (Wednesday),” Ensen said. “This is the season, and when the weather gets warm, like (Wednesday) when it was in the 70s, and the cold front comes up and mixes with that warm weather, that’s what causes the storm.”

He said Thursday is forecasted for temperatures of 70 degrees and higher as well.

Ensen said he expects the hail might begin at around 11 a.m. Thursday.

“Sometime early in the afternoon is when we’re probably going to get hammered with it, and it will probably go until the storm kicks it out of the area,” he said.

Ensen said when the sky darkens and hail can be seen on the ground, people should enter the nearest place of shelter and stay away from windows until the storm rolls away.

“They don’t need to be outside looking,” he said. “They don’t need to be looking to the sky to see what’s going on; they need to find a place in their home that’s safe.”

Ensen said basements are the safest places to go, and those without basements should go inside the bathroom or head to the middle of their home and lie flat with their heads covered.

He said every storm has the potential for a tornado, and if the condition is just right one can emerge and take everyone off guard.

“They need to heed the warnings,” Ensen said. “I’m not sitting up here all day and sending out warnings just to be a jokester.”

He said the biggest problem he has is that people do not always take warnings seriously.

“When that warning is put out, you need to take cover and be prepared for it,” Ensen said. “The ones that are in peril are the students going from class to class because they don’t have covered areas to walk in.”

Ensen said students at Eastern or any college in general that is not completely indoors should find shelter in a building and wait for the storm to leave if they hear a warning.

“If it’s darkening out and there’s rolling clouds outside and it’s torrential rains with hail coming down, they need to wait,” Ensen said. “Class will wait; they don’t need to mad dash it over there. It’s not worth it.”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].