Understanding the Storm

Learning lessons from the storm that hit Washington, Illinois.

Two WIU professors are working on opposite ends of the same problem, how to protect you and your family before, during and after a tornado strikes.

In November of 2013 Washington Illinois was hit by a massive EF-4 tornado that left a wide path of destruction behind.

WIU Assistant Professor of Geography Dr. Marcus B 1/4ker is involved in a three-year research project to try and figure out why some storms turn into tornados and others do not.

Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. B 1/4ker and two of his students are using a high powered computer to create simulations of super cell storms in the lab.

The hope is that one day this research could lead to early warning times for tornados.

"Right now the average lead time is about 13 minutes," B 1/4ker said. " If we can just extend that even four or five or six minutes that would have the potential to save a lot of lives."

WIU Emergency Management Assistant Professor Jack Rozdilsky is addressing the problem of tornados from the other end, response and recovery.

Rozdilsky and a group of students recently traveled to Washington, Illinois to help the city develop long term recovery plans.

He says a quick response is needed immediately after a tornado strikes.

"Many decisions are made regarding how the recovery is going to be taking place in the first few weeks after the tornado. So it is best to get boots on the ground to obtain information and data to understand the realistic picture," Dr. Rozdilsky said.

Dr. Rozdilsky says examing the damage from the storms can teach us a lot.

"By looking at the types of damage and the patterns of damage after a tornado, (we learn) how better to advise communities, " Rozdilsky said. "How to prepare perhaps for the next tornado in terms of tornado safety and sheltering."

Dr. Rozdilsky says that despite some setbacks from the winter, Washington is back on track with its recovery.

Dr. Rozdilsky also advises everyone to get a weather radio .