PRINCETON — Area residents and communities are still cleaning up after severe storms hit Bureau County and the Midwest earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Bureau County Emergency Management Agency Director Keenan Campbell said the biggest issue throughout the last few days has been the torrential rainfall. Lightning is always a concern, but people also have to be aware of traveling on roads which may be flooded in places. The ground is saturated, and that can cause flash flooding. When drivers come to flooded areas on roadways, the best thing to do is to follow the old saying, “Turn Around and Don’t Drown,” Campbell said.
As people clean-up from this week’s storms, as well as other storms, they need to be mindful of being outside and how to safely remove debris from their property, the Campbell said. Standing water is a concern because it could be energized by electrical lines, he said.
Sheffield and south to Buda seemed to take the brunt of the Monday night storm with straight line wind damage, Campbell said.
News 8 Chief Meteorologist James Zahara said a new record rainfall was set during Monday’s storm with the area receiving 5.11 inches of rain during the 24-hour period. The previous record was set in 1977 at 3.03 inches of rain.
Looking ahead to future severe weather events, Campbell said if sirens go off or a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, people need to be in their homes, in the lowest levels. But people are inquisitive by nature and don’t always take the safety measures they should, he said.
As always, the best time to prepare for severe weather is before it happens. To help keep residents current with information, the Bureau County EMA has launched a new website — http://ema.bureaucounty-il.gov — and is also using social media to get its message of safety out to area residents. Messages posted on Twitter are automatically posted to Facebook and can be found also on the right side of the agency’s website page.
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Severe weather preparedness
At home and work during severe thunderstorms
• Stay away from all windows and exterior doors during the storm. If it can be done safely, draw the window shades or blinds to reduce the risk from flying glass shattered by high winds.
• Avoid using a corded telephone or other electrical appliances until the storm passes.
• Turn off air conditioners. In the event of a lightning strike, a power surge could damage the compressor.
• Delay taking baths or showers until after the storm passes, due to the lightning threat.
Outdoors during severe thunderstorms
• Seek shelter immediately. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.
• If there is no immediate shelter available, find a low spot away from trees and power poles.
• If in a boat when a thunderstorm threatens, attempt to reach shore as quickly as possible.
• If driving, pull safely to the shoulder of the road away from trees and power lines. Lightning can flash from trees or power poles and strike a vehicle. Rubber tires do not keep lightning from striking a vehicle. In the open, a hard-topped vehicle is normally a safe shelter from lightning. Avoid touching metal parts of the vehicle when lightning is nearby.
Source: Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Severe weather preparedness — flooding
• The most dangerous type of flooding is a flash flood from rain-swollen roads and waterways. Most flash floods are caused by slow-moving thunderstorms and occur most frequently at night.
• Flooding is to blame for 32 deaths in Illinois since 1995. Most of these fatalities involved people in vehicles trying to cross flooded roadways. The speed and depth of the water is not always obvious. Also, there may be a hidden portion of the roadway washed out under the water. Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.
• Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. Use extreme care in areas of downed power lines or natural gas leaks. Wear adequate footwear to avoid cuts from broken glass or nails protruding from boards.
• Stay alert in areas where flood waters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a vehicle. Never cross a flooded road or bridge in your vehicle.
• Inspect foundations of buildings for cracks and other damage. When entering buildings, use extreme caution. If your home was damaged, check the utilities and look for fire hazards.
• Do not let children play in or near flood waters, flooded creeks or flood retention ponds. Swift water currents could sweep them away. Also, the water may be contaminated with oil, gasoline or raw sewage.
• Pump out flooded basements gradually, about one-third of the water per day, to avoid structural damage.
Source: Illinois Emergency Management Agency.