A Tornado Watch has been issued for greater North Central Illinois as strong storms are expected to roll through the area this evening.
Scattered thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds and hail are expected throughout the afternoon and evening. People and groups in areas affected are recommended to make changes to plans in advance.
Currently Winnebago, Boone, DeKalb, Ogle and Lee Counties are all under a Tornado Watch until 11 p.m. tonight.
A Tornado Watch indicates that atmospheric conditions are favorable for tornadic activity.
According to the National Weather Service, the risk for severe thunderstorms will be highest from mid-afternoon until 9 p.m.
The first Tornado Warning related to today’s storms was issued northeast of Peoria at approximately 1:50 p.m. this afternoon.
The first wave of rain and storms is expected to move into the Rockford area around 4 p.m.
Update (3:50 p.m.): Rockford Public Schools have canceled all after school activities for high schools and middle schools:
“All RPS 205 high school and middle school activities are canceled, including all athletic practices and games, because of the weather. After-school care at the elementary level will continue. Each school has a severe weather plan to ensure students and staff remain safe. Students and staff practice severe weather drills at least once each school year. Safety is a top priority in RPS 205. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”
Pea-sized hail has been reported near Winnebago as the first wave of storms enters the area.
Update (4:10 p.m.): ComEd has announced an increase in staffing in preparation for severe weather tonight as well as the opening of is Emergency Operations Center as of 5 p.m.
“‘We are increasing ComEd field crew staffing levels and have additional contractor crews on stand-by, as well, in preparation for any possible interruptions that may result from this severe weather,’ said Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer for ComEd. ‘We will continue to monitor the weather closely and are ready to respond as conditions change.’
“ComEd urges customers to contact the utility immediately if they are experiencing a power outage. Customers can text OUT to 26633 (COMED) to report their outage and receive restoration information.
“ComEd also introduced a mobile app for iPhone and Android smart phones, available in the app store for each platform that gives customers the ability to report power outages and manage their accounts.
“In addition, customers can report outages through the website at ComEd.com or on ComEd’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/ComEd or by calling 1-800 EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661).
“Spanish-speaking customers should call 1-800-95-LUCES (1-800-955-8237).”
Update (4:30 p.m.): Two storm chasers are active in the area today. Follow their progress here.
Previously: “Don’t wait for the tornado sirens, take cover”
Current radar image courtesy of ZoomRadar.com.