BATAVIA – Governor Pat Quinn will be joined by WGN’s Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling and National Weather Service Director Dr. Louis Uccellini at the Annual Fermilab/WGN Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar this weekend. While there, Governor Quinn will discuss the state’s response to the high number of severe storms that have impacted Illinois over the past several years.
“Illinois has faced a record number of natural disasters in recent years,” Governor Quinn said. “It is critical to ensure our state’s emergency personnel and first responders are always equipped to do what is necessary to keep the public safe when it comes to severe weather. I salute Chicago’s own Tom Skilling for the important work he does to educate the public on the impacts of climate change and importance of preparedness for severe weather.”
The Annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar was established to educate Illinois residents of all ages about the dynamics of severe weather. Skilling created the seminar 34 years ago, along with Brian Smith, currently with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year, a discussion of climate change with a Nobel Prize winning scientist and other experts was held, and the discussion of the world’s changing climate and its impact on severe weather remains a part of the program.
In the last five years, Illinois has been through 11 natural disasters, including a record drought in 2012; deadly tornadoes in 2012 and 2013; historic winter storms earlier this year; and floods, including the spring 2013 flooding in 49 counties that broke all-time records on four major river systems.
The severe winter weather in January 2014 again saw the mobilization of state resources at Governor Quinn’s direction – stranded motorists were rescued, roads kept open, warming centers provided and assistance offered to keep homes and businesses heated.
On Nov. 17, 2013 a tornado outbreak across Illinois killed eight people, damaged or destroyed 2,500 homes and severely impacted the towns of Brookport, Gifford, New Minden, Diamond and Washington. The state was struck by 25 confirmed tornadoes in three hours, including two EF-4 twisters, the first ever of that strength during November. Just nine days after the tornadoes caused widespread destruction across the state, Governor Quinn successfully secured federal aid to assist people and businesses in 15 affected counties. Following federal denial of additional urgently-needed disaster assistance, Governor Quinn assembled a multi-agency $45 million state relief package to help Illinois local governments recover from the storms.
Following the catastrophic flash floods in April 2013, Governor Quinn also directed state agencies to assist citizens, businesses and local governments to help recover. The Governor mobilized all available state resources to aid in cleanup including debris removal, repairs, sandbagging, evacuations, supply deliveries and a grace period to file tax returns.
Last year, Governor Quinn was appointed to the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience which will recommend ways to strengthen the way states and the nation respond to natural disasters. The Governor is also currently working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and the Congressional delegation to pass legislation to improve the federal formula in the disaster assistance process and help more people rebuild their lives.
Fermilab generously donates its facilities for the annual program, which is expecting to draw nearly 3,000 participants this year. Speakers joining Governor Quinn this year include Dr. Louis Uccellini, Director of the National Weather Service; Dr. Russ Schneider, Director of NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma; Dr. Don Wuebbles, climate researcher from the University of Illinois; Ed Fenelon, Meteorologist in Charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Romeoville; and Meteorologist Matt Friedlein, who discussed the horrific Washington tornado and the record severe weather outbreak which impacted the state in November.