Traveling around the state as I do, weather is always a consideration, not only for how to dress, but also for just plain survival.
During the last tornado run through Illinois, I and members of my staff were in Greenup, which is a good distance away from Riverside. We flew there so we could be back in time for other events in the Chicagoland area. Coming back was another story. The winds picked up, the rain was a torrent, and the pilots’ radar showed a huge storm almost entirely over the state.
Although it took us hours of waiting before a “hole” appeared in the weather, we never could go straight north, because of the continued storm front. We wound up flying east, then over Lake Michigan, then down to Midway Airport to avoid the storm.
As the plane took off, I could see the lightning and rain, wondering if this was a good idea. Of course, one has to figure that the pilots are not going to be suicidal and won’t go up if the weather is outlandish. We got home in the wee hours of the morning successfully, only to learn that morning that tornados had ravaged many parts of Illinois.
Tornados leave an incredible amount of damage. Because we have a program in the Treasurer’s Office to help out with low-interest loans in affected counties following a natural disaster, I have gone into tornado-stricken areas to view the damage.
It is amazing how much more devastating these areas look at street level than when one views them on television. From the air, it is even worse. One can see the wide swath a tornado can create as it destroys everything in its path. Often, one can actually see the footprint of the funnel cloud going through trees and houses alike.
Springfield was especially hard hit, with whole neighborhoods left with some level of damage. All that was left of a church was its foundation, a large tree lay across a house (and narrowly missing a young man within it) and treetops were shaved clean off for block after block.
Having seen all of this, I was surprised by a police officer stopping by my Springfield home on Sunday, to tell me to batten down because radar was showing some nasty weather coming. The sirens followed soon after. All I could think about was what I had already seen from past tornados. Would I really wind up being in one?
Many of my staff had sat out the tornados of a month ago by retreating to basements, closets or bathrooms?”any rooms without windows. So, I knew what to do as the winds picked up and the television and radio told people to head for safety immediately.
Mercifully, I have a basement and began to herd my two dogs downstairs while taking a portable radio, my Sidekick e-mail device, water bottles and the dogs’ water bowl.
Peggy Sue, the beagle, was only too happy to go into the basement as it is a relatively new area for her to explore. Molly McDoo the scottie, however, had no intention of going downstairs and had to be carried down.
Then it was sit and wait to hear the radio talk about funnels seen and touchdowns recorded. The west side of Springfield, relatively close to me, was getting damage, as towns close by reported outright tornados.
After about an hour the weather had moved north, and I shagged the dogs back upstairs. The neighborhood showed some signs of tree damage, mainly tree branches knocked off by the heavy winds. However, no serious damage seemed to have taken place.
I had already lived through an earthquake in Springfield, now the potential of a tornado. Things continue to look ever so much more placid in Riverside.