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NOAA/NWS 1982 Marion, IL F4 Tornado Web Site

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When residents of Williamson County learned what was headed their way on May 29, 1982, many of them sought interior shelter from the storm in such places as basements, closets, and even bathtubs.  According to Dennis McCarthy, former Director of National Weather Service Central Region Headquarters, "Many people avoided death or injury that day by doing the right thing when they heard the warning or realized a dangerous storm was headed their way."  Thus, when a warning is issued, it is important to take immediate action by following these safety rules for thunderstorms and lightning, tornadoes, and flash flooding.


Thunderstorms pose a hazard in a number of ways, from lightning to hail and damaging winds.  Watch for clues to an approaching storm, including increasing wind, flashes of lightning, and rumbles of thunder.  Remember, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.  Move to a safe shelter immediately!  During a thunderstorm...

  1. Get inside a home, sturdy building, or an all-metal (not convertible) automobile.

  2. Do not use the telephone or electrical appliances unless in an emergency.

  3. Do not stand underneath a natural lightning rod such as a tall, isolated tree or a telephone pole.

  4. Avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape by standing on a hilltop, observation tower, or other elevated object.

  5. In a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.  In open areas, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley, but watch for rising flood waters.

  6. Get away from open water, tractors and other metal farm equipment, or small metal vehicles such as motorcycles, bicycles, or golf carts. Avoid boating and swimming.

  7. Avoid wire fences, clotheslines, or metal pipes and rails.  Put down your golf clubs!

  8. Finally, if you are caught in a level field or in the open, away from shelter, and you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, lightning may be ready to strike you.  Crouch low to the ground with your hands on your knees.  Do not lie flat on the ground.  The idea here is to get as low as possible while minimizing contact with the ground.


Tornadoes occur most often in the spring, but can occur any time of the year.  Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado, including a dark greenish sky, large hail, a loud roar (like a freight train), and a rotating wall cloud.  When a tornado occurs, immediate action can save your life.

  1. Stay away from all windows!

  2. Avoid doors and outside walls.  Always protect your head!  Remember that flying debris is responsible for most tornado deaths and injuries.

  3. In homes and small buildings, seek shelter in a basement.  If a basement is not available, go to an interior closet, bathroom, or hallway on the lowest floor possible.  Get underneath something sturdy.  The goal is to put as much protection between you and the outside.

  4. In schools, nursing homes, hospitals, factories, and shopping centers, go to pre-designated shelter areas.  Interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually the safest.

  5. In high-rise buildings, go to interior small rooms or hallways.

  6. Leave mobile homes or vehicles and go to a substantial shelter.  If there is not shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression with your hands shielding your head.  Be alert for rapidly rising waters in these low areas!


Flash flooding is a major weather-related killer in the United States, causing more deaths per year than thunderstorms or tornadoes.  When a flash flood warning is issued for your area, or the moment you first realize that a flash flood is imminent, act quickly to save yourself.  You may have only seconds.

  1. Get out of areas subject to flooding.  This includes low-water crossings, ditches, etc.

  2. Avoid already flooded and high-velocity flow areas.  Never attempt to cross a flowing stream on foot.

  3. If driving, know the depth of water in a low spot before crossing.  The roadbed may not be intact under the water.  It only takes a few feet of water to float a car!

  4. If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.  Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.  Remember, most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles!

  5. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

  6. Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and creeks, particularly during hazardous conditions.

Following these safety precautions when adverse weather approaches will drastically reduce your chances for injury and could someday save your life!