Stay alert: Severe weather possible in the Illinois Valley

Forecasters warn of hail, wind gusts into Wednesday

If you have a weather radio, tune in Tuesday night as severe weather is predicted to roll into the Illinois Valley.

And if you don’t have a weather radio, this would be a good time to buy one.

A low pressure system, albeit a strong one, is moving from the Great Plains into southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Forecasters in Chicago and the Quad Cities have said the Illinois Valley will get a drenching plus thunderstorms that are worth keeping an eye on.

“Once we get into the afternoon hours Tuesday, there is the potential for scattered thunderstorms across northern Illinois which could become severe,” said David King, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Chicago.

While Iowa and the Quad Cities are more likely to bear the brunt of the storms, King said the risk of severe weather was deemed Level 2 (out of 5), which could bring not only fierce storms but also hail at least 1 inch in diameter and strong winds up to 60 mph.

“And that it looks like we have another round Wednesday morning that could produce hail and strong wind, as well,” said Alex Gibbs, lead meteorologist with the NWS Quad Cities.

(River flooding does not appear to be an immediate concern. The National Weather Service shows the Illinois River slipped below “minor” flood stage on Monday. River levels are projected to further decline, even with showers forecast.)

David Isermann, president of the La Salle County Farm Bureau, doesn’t relish 1-inch hail under any circumstances, but he acknowledged there are worse times to get it. Isermann said cool temperatures and recent rains has spring planting off to a “very slow” start. Crop damage from hail is not yet a concern.

“If it wants to hail, it can do it now,” he quipped. “It’s better than in June.”

Tornadoes, of course, are never welcome and Illinois Valley residents are advised to stay alert starting Tuesday afternoon.

One community assured of watching is Utica, which this week marks an unhappy anniversary.

Village officials will conduct a service at 6:30 p.m. Saturday commemorating the 20th anniversary of the tornado that heavily damaged Utica and Granville, killing 10. The commemoration will take place at the memorial marking the former Milestone Restaurant and Lounge, where eight people took cover and did not emerge.

Utica Police Chief James Mandujano urged all residents to tune into the National Weather Service, listen for local bulletins and have a plan in case it becomes necessary to take cover.

La Salle County also has an emergency preparedness app that can be downloaded to a smartphone or device.

Last fall, EMA director Fred Moore unveiled the county’s emergency app, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, available under “LaSalle County EMA Illinois.” The app features quick-reference information on natural disasters as well as crisis situations such as active shooters.

“This is a one-stop shop place to go to get additional information on how to prepare,” Moore said.

The app also includes customizable features such as “Share My Plan,” which includes fields for people to identify, for example, a rendezvous point for family members to meet.

Moore said Monday the app has been dowloaded about 500 times, but the county still aims for 2,000 downloads. He hopes more residents will use this week’s forecast as an impetus to prepare.

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