Weather Preparedness

If you notice threatening weather approaching, check your local radio or television weather reports. Or you may invest in an all band weather radio. While Arlington Heights does have an outdoor warning siren system, do not wait for the siren to seek shelter. Funnel systems can form quickly and may strike before weather sirens can be sounded.

Additionally, a microburst can strike without warning since they do not show up on Doppler Radar.  Some residents have questioned why the outdoor warning siren system has not been activated when there has been a “Tornado Warning” issued for Cook County.  It must be remembered that Cook County is the largest county in Illinois and the second largest county in the nation. The land area of Cook County, not counting Lake Michigan, is 946 square miles.  Arlington Heights, which is located in the extreme northern part of Cook County, is 18 square miles in area. Sounding alerts for sightings, which are many miles away, would prove detrimental to the purpose of the system.

In Arlington Heights the outdoor warning siren system will be activated and an alert will be sounded if a tornado is determined to be in the area - - this will be a distinctive, three to five minute continuous tone.  These systems have been designed to warn people who are outdoors or in vehicles to seek shelter.  Arlington Heights, as well as many of our neighboring communities, has trained weather spotters who monitor conditions and report to Northwest Central Dispatch.  Northwest Central Dispatch additionally monitors broadcasts from the National Weather Service, NOAA and NAWAS.  If you are near your home when the alert sounds, go directly to the basement, an inner hallway, or a bathroom that is free of windows.  If you have access to a radio or TV, tune to a news station to determine the progress of the storm and to know when the danger has passed.  Arlington Heights does not sound an all-clear signal due to the fact that secondary funnel systems or a microburst may follow turbulent weather.  Per legislation enacted by the 79th General Assembly, all public warning devices in Illinois shall be tested on the first Tuesday of each month uniformly at 10:00 a.m. Arlington Heights tests our outdoor warning sirens and alert radios systems at this time.

There are a variety of severe weather hazards that affect Cook County, Illinois, including:  lightning, damaging winds, large hail, flash floods and tornadoes.  Tornadoes pose the greatest severe weather threat to life and property in Cook County. Tornado season in Illinois is from mid-March through June, but tornadoes have occurred in every month of the year.  They are most frequently seen from mid-afternoon through the early evening.  Most tornadoes move from southwest toward the northeast.  Tornadoes usually move at speeds of 30 to 40 mph, but they can move as fast as 70 mph. Most Cook County tornadoes produce wind gusts of 50 to 120 mph and last only a few minutes.  However, there have been tornadoes that were large, violent, wide spread and long lasting with wind gusts of over 300 mph and moving up to 70 mph.  Illinois averages 29 tornadoes per year.  However, in 1998, 105 tornadoes were reported in Illinois, two short of the record 107 that occurred in 1974.  Not every severe thunderstorm will produce a tornado, but if conditions are right, a tornado can develop in minutes.  Tornadoes can take many forms, but are typically funneled shaped with very high wind speeds.  The clouds are dark and rotating, winds increase, and large hail is very common. Often debris will be seen flying in a swirling motion in the air.
Straight-line downburst winds, sometimes called microbursts, from severe thunderstorms often reach speeds of 50 to 80 mph and sometimes exceed 100 mph.  Unlike tornadoes a microburst doesn’t show up on Doppler Radar and can strike without warning.  These downburst winds can down trees and large limbs, power lines and poles and cause severe structural damage to buildings.  Significant damage can be seen in lightweight buildings or weaker structures such as mobile homes.  Severe thunderstorms usually approach from the southwest or west, but can move from the northwest particularly in mid to late summer.  Damaging winds often are preceded by a dark low-hanging row of clouds on the leading edge of an approaching storm, known as a wall cloud.

Watches & Warnings
Severe Thunderstorm Watch 
Conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to develop in the area. 
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Severe thunderstorms are imminent and are occurring in the area. 
Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible in your area.  Remain alert for approaching storms. 
Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by Doppler Radar in the area.

Sometimes tornadoes develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect.  Remain alert to signs of approaching storms and quickly changing conditions and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.
Develop a Family Disaster Plan
Get informed
Find out what type of disasters could occur in your community and how you should respond.
Create a plan
One of the most important steps in preparing for emergencies is to develop a plan.  Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another.  Have two different meeting places, one away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home, so your family can reunite.  Choose an out-of-state friend or family member as your family-check-in-contact for everyone to call or e-mail in case your family gets separated.  Make certain that this person is aware of your plan and their involvement.  Discuss and practice your plan with all household members. 
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Having essential supplies on hand will make your family more comfortable.  Keep in mind that roads and stores may be closed immediately after a disaster.  Things you take for granted like gas, electricity, food, and water may be hard to secure during an emergency.  Start with a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water.  Add a battery-powered flashlight and radio; a first aid kit and required medications for family members with special needs; baby formula, diapers, and pets supplies if required.  These are all examples of items that could be included in your family’s Disaster Supplies Kit.
If you have any questions or if we can be of any help, please contact the Arlington Heights Emergency Management Agency at 847-368-5459.
Winter Weather

Prepare Your Car for Winter
Take your car to a trusted mechanic or shop...

  • Check the ignition, brakes, wiring and fan belts
  • Change and adjust the spark plugs
  • Check air, fuel and emission filters, and PCV valve
  • Inspect the distributor
  • Check the battery
  • Check tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth
  • Check antifreeze level and the freeze line
Your trunk should have...
  • A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Bag of salt or cat litter
Keep a "Survival Kit" with you...
  • Working flashlight and extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Exterior windshield cleaner
  • Ice Scraper and snow brush
  • Non-perishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold.  Superficial frostbite is characterized by white, waxy or grayish/yellow patches on the affected areas.
Treat superficial frostbite by taking the victim inside immediately.  Remove any constrictive clothing items and jewelry that could impair circulation.  Place dry sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and to keep them from sticking together. Slightly elevate the affected part to reduce pain and swelling.  Re-warming usually takes 20 to 45 minutes or until tissue softens.

Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  Symptoms of this condition include change in mental status, uncontrollable shivering, cool abdomen and a low core body temperature.

Treat hypothermia by getting the victim out of the cold. Add insulation such as blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim.  Be sure to cover the victim's head and keep the victim in a horizontal flat position.

Snow Shoveling
  • If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor's permission
  • Take it slow!  Shoveling - like lifting weights - can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically, so pace yourself
  • Freshly fallen, powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety
  • Push the snow as you shovel.  It's easier on your back than lifting the snow out of the way
  • Lift with your legs bent, not your back - keep your back straight
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.  If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately!
Ice Skating Safety
  • Wear skates that fit comfortably and provide enough ankle support to keep you on your feet
  • Skate only on specially prepared skating areas where you are sure the ice is strong enough to withstand your weight
  • Always check for cracks, holes and other debris
  • Before setting out on your skating expedition, learn basic skating skills such as how to stop and fall safely
  • Never skate alone
Safe Sledding
Follow these tips for a season of safe sledding and tobogganing.  Children ages 5 to 9 are most susceptible to injury...
  • Sled on spacious sloping hills which have a level run-off at the end so that the sled can come to a halt safely.  Avoid steep slopes and slopes located near streets and roadways
  • Check slopes for bare spots, holes and other obstructions which might cause injury
  • Make sure the sledding path doesn't cross traffic and is free from hazards such as large trees, fences, rocks or telephone poles
  • Do not sled on or around frozen lakes, streams or ponds because the ice may be unstable
  • The proper position for sledding is to sit or lay on your back on the top of the sled, with your feet pointing downhill.  Sledding head-first increases the risk of head injury and should be avoided
Ski & Snowboard Safety
A beginning skier or snowboarder should get proper instruction from a certified instructor before hitting the slopes.  Among other basic skills, it is necessary to know how to fall down and get back up.  Check with the local Ski Patrol for conditions and study a map of the area you will be skiing or snowboarding.  One of the most important safety rules is to never ski or snowboard alone.

Improperly fitted or mis-adjusted equipment can cause the best skier or snowboarder injury.  If you own ski or snowboard equipment, have them checked for proper fit and adjustment periodically throughout the season.  Boots and binding are the most important part of the ski or snowboard outfit.  Proper clothing is also an important part of your equipment.  Dress in layers.  Bright colors are the best because they can be seen at a great distance.