Chicago-1 Weather Safety Resource Page

Chicago-One News wants to help keep you and your family WEATHER READY

The weather does as it will, and can become severe at a moment's notice! Much of today's severe weather can be predicted, sometimes even days ahead of time. Sadly, many people ignore weather watches & warnings for a variety of reasons. Even after much very public work on part of the National Weather Service with their community level and national level partners, people still obtain injuries or are tragically taken from their families because they ignored very simple weather safety practices.

Living in Chicago brings with it some very unique dangers when weather becomes severe. The City of Chicago faces very different dangers that pose much more risk than rural or suburban areas. Chicago-One News has created this page specifically to help teach city visitors AND residents alike what they can do to stay safe in severe weather. All information on this page was taken from the National Weather Service / NOAA and a link is provided for each section of information.


The first graphic describes the differences between a WATCH and a WARNING. This doesn't ONLY apply to Tornado activity, it applies to ALL forms of severe weather! Whether there's a rotation in a storm or not, a WATCH will ALWAYS mean that conditions are right for the weather to become severe. A Severe Weather WARNING will ALWAYS mean that severe weather is happening NOW or is expected to happen within a short time.  


ADVISORY - An advisory means BE AWARE! Types of common advisories for the METRO CHICAGO AREA are: High Wind Advisory, Excessive Heat Advisory, Excessive UV Advisory, Winter Weather Advisory, High Wave Advisory (Lake Michigan and other major bodies of water where high waves may occur), Small Craft Advisory (Lake Michigan / Chicago & Illinois Rivers, DesPlaines River, Fox River, and other major Illinois bodies of water), Flood Advisory.


The NOAA / NWS participate in multiple methods and use multiple tools to make sure the public can receive weather watches and warnings.

1. Cellular Phone Alerts

2. Television

3. Radio

4. Internet

The NWS still operates VHF radio broadcasts on the following radio frequencies:

162.400Mhz, 162.425Mhz, 162.450Mhz, 162.475Mhz, 162.500Mhz, 162.525Mhz, 162.550Mhz

The NWS broadcasts something called a SAME Alert during those times when weather is expected to become severe or has become severe. NWR service to a county depends on reliable signal reception, which typically extends in about a 40 mile radius from the transmitter, assuming level terrain. Counties without NWR coverage or partial NWR coverage are indicated. Some counties or parts of counties, especially in mountainous areas, may not have reliable reception due to signal blockages or excessive distance from the transmitter. Read the detailed system document here in PDF format.

 Explanation of NWR and SAME

You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, please refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visit for more information.

Some cell phones allow the users to opt-in and opt-out directly on their devices. These devices differentiate the imminent threat alerts into two categories - "Extreme alerts" and "Severe alerts" as shown in the image below. 
The Extreme alerts from the National Weather Service include warnings for tsunamis, tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes and typhoons. The Severe alerts from National Weather Service include warnings for flash floods and dust storms. For example, by keeping Extreme alert selected and de-selecting Severe alert, the user would still be capable of receiving Extreme alerts, but would not receive Severe alerts on their cell phone. 

Download / Read the Wireless Emergency Alert Fact Sheet (PDF)

See these important highlights below, as they apply especially to Chicago and nearby outlying areas!


Beach Hazards - RIP Currents are NO JOKE!
  • Know How to Swim BEFORE You Venture In: Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds, and dangerous currents. Changing ocean currents and winds can quickly exhaust your energy and strength. You should be a strong swimmer before you go into the ocean, Great Lakes, or Gulf of Mexico. Many swimming programs now offer lessons in how to escape a rip current. According to the USLA, learning how to swim is the best defense against drowning.
  • Know What the Warnings Flags Mean: Know what the warning flags mean. Read the beach safety signs at the entrance to the beach. Once on the beach, look for beach warning flags, often posted on or near a lifeguard's stand. A green flag means water conditions are safe and other colors mean conditions are not safe. These flags are there to protect you. Please read and obey the posted beach signs and warning flags. Warning flags aren't used in all areas and their meaning can vary from area to area. Check this link from U.S. Lifesaving Associaiton for info on the beach you are visiting.


Rip currents can be dangerous, but if you know your options, survey your situation, and stay calm, you can stay safe and continue to have fun in the surf, sand, and sun. NWS - At The Beach

NWS Wind Safety Tips & Resources

Wind Basics

Before Strong Winds

During Strong Winds

After Strong Winds 

  • Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
  • Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public
  • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally
  • Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
  • Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. 


Severe thunderstorms are officially defined as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees or cause structural damage to trees. Some severe thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph, so please pay attention to the weather so you know when severe storms are possible. Thunderstorms also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning; heavy rain can cause flash flooding. These hazards covered in more detail under the tornado, lightning safety and flood safety websites.

Prepare! Don't Let Severe Weather Take You by Surprise

Find out what you can do before severe weather strikes. Preparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.
  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for severe weather. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips.
  • Sign Up for Notifications: Know how your community sends warning. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smart phones to alert residents to severe storms.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. Pick a safe room in your home such as a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Get more ideas for a plan at:
  • Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when severe thunderstorm warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.
    Prepare Your Home : Keep trees and branches trimmed near your house. If you have time before severe weather hits, secure loose objects, close windows and doors, and move any valuable objects inside or under a sturdy structure.
    Help Your Neighbor: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for severe thunderstorms. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt during severe weather.
  • Download Thunderstorms, Lightning, Tornadoes for more science and safety tips
What to do DURING Severe Weather

What to do AFTER a severe thunderstorm

The National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center provides comprehensive snow observations, analyses, data sets and map products for the Nation.
  • National Snow Observation Database
  • Airborne Snow Surveys
  • Satellite Snow Cover Mapping
  • Snow Modeling and Data Assimilation
  • Analyses, Maps, and Interactive Visualization Tools
  • Integrated Snow Datasets for Geospatial Applications
  • Applied Snow Research
NOHRSC products and services support a wide variety of government and private-sector applications in water resource management, disaster emergency preparedness, weather and flood forecasting, agriculture, transportation and commerce.  


Learn About and Calculate Wind Chill

Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, closing airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. The weight of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost. In the mountains, heavy snow can lead to avalanches. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and the loss of business can have severe economic impacts on cities and towns. See for the latest forecast.

Blizzard: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile for 3 hours or more.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
Source for above graphic
 Source for above graphic
After a Winter Storm
When the snow and ice melt, it's tempting to relieve that cabin fever and hit the roads. But melting snow can cause floods, partially cleared roads may be icy or blocked, creeks and rivers often overflow from the rush of melting snow and ice. Heavy snow may have knocked down power lines and caused gas leaks, both of which can be deadly, but are not obvious at first glance. Follow the tip below to stay safe and check the other links on this site for actions to take before, during and after a winter storm.
Stay Informed
Avoid Flooded Roads and Heed Road Danger Signs
Check Your Home, Contact Family and Isolated Neighbors
Roadway Hazards After a Winter Storm

National Centers For Environmental Information
National and Global snow and ice data and products

  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground; creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Wind Chill: A measure of how cold people feel due to the combined effect of wind and cold temperatures; the Wind chill Index is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin. Both cold temperatures and wind remove heat from the body; as the wind speed increases during cold conditions, a body loses heat more quickly. Eventually, the internal body temperature also falls and hypothermia can develop. Animals also feel the effects of wind chill; but inanimate objects, such as vehicles and buildings, do not. They will only cool to the actual air temperature, although much faster during windy conditions. Read how the Wind Chill Index was developed.

Lake effect snow is common across the Great Lakes region during the late fall and winter. Lake Effect snow occurs when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen and relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. The air rises, clouds form and grow into narrow band that produces 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more.

Wind direction is a key component in determining which areas will receive lake effect snow. Heavy snow may be falling in one location, while the sun may be shining just a mile or two away in either direction. The physical geography of the land and water is also important. National Weather Service meteorologists consider these factors as well as others when forecasting lake effect snow.

The most well-known blizzards are winter storms that produce several inches occuring with strong winds that cause blowing snow and whiteout conditions, but not all blizzards happen this way. In the Midwest, ground blizzards develop with little or no snowfall. One of the most infamous ground blizzards was the Children's Blizzard of 1888, which killed an estimated 235 people in the Great Plains. Since then, there have been countless other ground blizzards, many of which were deadly.

Ground blizzards are extremely dangerous because they are preceded by unseasonably warm air, which can cause people to let their guard down. People may venture outside without proper winter clothing. This relatively warm weather does not last long. The ground blizzard occurs when an Arctic cold front moves through the region, causing temperatures to drop and winds to increase, often reaching gusts of 50 to 60 mph. If there are several inches of deep fresh snow on the ground, this strong wind will quickly pick up the snow and create whiteout conditions. Another reason these blizzards are dangerous is the cold temperatures that follow behind the Arctic front. Anyone stranded in their vehicle or forced to walk outside is at risk of frostbite or hypothermia.

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Information will be updated yearly

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