On the evening of July 27, 2006, a tornado warning was issued for my county. After the weather forecaster urged my viewing area to take cover, I swiftly hustled my children into the basement of our home, grabbed a futon mattress to pull over us and fretfully awaited the deafening “freight train" sound most tornado victims say they hear when a tornado is approaching. Fifteen minutes later, all was well and the tornado warning expired without incident.
The whole nerve-wrecking experience prompted me to recall the newspaper and tv images I've seen of tornado disasters, where the victims always stand disoriented and shocked in the aftermath. And then I thought about it: Chicago has also had its share of severe weather, but has escaped being hit head-on by a tornado.
Sure, Chicago residents can attest to bone freezing winters, suffocating summers and forceful winds, but a majority of born and bred Chicagoans will tell you they've never experienced a tornado.
While this is certainly due to pure luck on Chicago's part, some Chicago residents simply refuse to believe a tornado can barrel through city limits. What's more, some Chicagoans don't even realize that Illinois is in the “heart" of tornado alley; a region in the united states that stirs up some of the most devastating tornadoes.
In recent years, a number of towns that surround the city of Chicago have been unfortunate targets of tornado alley's spawn, including Plainfield, Illinois, which was pulverized by an F5 monster in 1990 and Utica, Illinois, which took an immense blow from anF3 in 2004 that killed 8 people. However, few know about the tornado that terrorized Chicago on April 21, 1967.
The tornado, which was gauged an F4 on the Fujita tornado damage scale, " tore a 16.2-mile (65 mph ground speed) swath of destruction through Oak Lawn, Hometown, Evergreen Park, and devastated the south side of Chicago before moving offshore to Lake Michigan as people were stuck in traffic during Friday rush hour. "
"Thirty-three people were killed and 1000 were injured, including 16 deaths alone at the intersection of Southwest Highway and W. 95th St.in Oak Lawn. The tornado destroyed 152 homes and damaged 900 more, causing $50 million in damage. "
This compelling evidence of tornado activity within the city may be a surprise to some Chicagoans, but it is important to remember that this traumatizing natural disaster can occur in the big city. So when the sky turns green and thunder booms so loud your ears start to ring, be sure to keep your eyes on the sky and prepare yourself to take immediate action; doing so can save your life.
Signs that may indicate a tornado is approaching:
* A dark or green-colored sky.
* A large, dark, low-lying cloud.
* Large hail.
* A loud roar that sounds like a freight train.
Sheila Webster-Heard is a freelance writer who loves to write about her life experiences. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and three children. http://www.sheilawebster-heard.com
http://www.bt. cdc. gov/disasters/tornadoes/during.asp
http://www.sws. uiuc. edu/atmos/statecli/Tornado_v2/tornado_v2.htm