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Tornadoes may affect local travel

With no designated disaster shelters, Chicagoan's may be in trouble if they can't locate a shelter like this one on Jackson Blvd. (Photo by Austin Montgomery)

After a tornado ripped through a Southern Illinois town, Amtrak said that so far,  train travel had not been affected because none of its trains traveled close to Harrisburg.

Mark Magliani, media relations manager of Amtrak, said if more storms develop, the trains would be advised to stop and wait for the tornado to pass. The same applies to freight trains.

The National Weather Service is predicting more bad weather across north central Illinois, northeast Illinois, and northwest Indiana. If the storms become severe in those areas, thunderstorms are expected, though their severity is low. Isolated tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds will likely occur.

On Wednesday, Feb. 29, a tornado ripped through Saline County in southeastern Illinois, killing six and injuring an estimated 100.

The EF4 scale tornado produced winds between 166 to 200 mph, and reduced many businesses and homes to piles of rubble.

This tornado is one of many which have been devastating the Midwest recently.
“We weren’t close enough to be affected,” said Southern Illinois University freshman Erin O’Flaherty. “It’s really scary and crazy.”

The hardest hit area is only being accessible by emergency personnel, according to news accounts, with the looming threat of a possible explosion due to ruptured gas leaks.

Ameren Illinois, the electricity company located in Harrisburg, is currently restoring power to those of the 15,000 residents who are still lacking electricity.

“This is the first really severe storm of 2012,” said Lee Morris, spokesperson for Ameren Illinois. “I have to compliment the people of Harrisburg who were impacted. They’re optimistic.”

In cases of extreme weather, the Emergency Operations Center, an operating unit which delegates storm recovery work, is operated. Other states can get involved to contribute to the effort.

Though not everyone was affected by the severe weather, protective measures are still being taken in the event that a tornado occurs elsewhere.

In light of the tragic events, citizens are doing their part to aid the victims. Shelters and donations are one of the routes being taken.

“The school is planning to set up donation boxes around campus,” said O’Flaherty.

Sharon J. Tillsley, executive of the Salvation Army in Chicago, declined to comment on disaster aftermath.

According to Ameren’s Morris, the state of Missouri has provided assistance. In the past, states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana have lent helping hands.

The American Red Cross stressed the importance of preparations in the wake of the severe weather that is predicted to continue on into tomorrow.

Necessary precautions include heeding the warnings of tornado watches, securing lawn furniture outside one’s home that can be picked up by the wind, and heading for a basement or interior closet for safety.

If in a vehicle, citizens are advised to pull over, secure themselves with their seatbelts, and duck under their windows covering their heads. Those without vehicles who are caught outside must find ground lower than the elevation of the road, duck, and cover their heads.

Aspyn Jones, Merissa Marks, Austin Montgomery, Tina Spentzos, and Tim Shaunnessey contributed to this report. Map by Ray Mayol.

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