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Atmospheric professor discusses recent tornado outbreak and what lies ahead for Illinois

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(The Center Square) – An atmospheric professor says Illinois may have dodged a bullet with the latest round of tornadoes to hit the state, but urban sprawl may change future outcomes.

No one was killed when 11 twisters hit northern Illinois Wednesday, but there was considerable damage in Elgin and Burr Ridge.

Victor Gensini, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Northern Illinois University, said conditions will be favorable for more storms in the coming weeks, but the latest round could have been a lot worse.

“This was kind of a run-of-the-mill event for northern Illinois when you look at the broad scheme of what can happen and in many ways we dodged a bullet,” said Gensini.

None of the tornadoes that hit northern Illinois this week were above an E1 rating.

Gensini said it is only a matter of time before a catastrophic tornado hits Illinois.

“As humans continue to build, as we continue to shape the landscape and increase our footprint of the human-built environment, these types of disasters will continue to increase and get more magnified in the future,” said Gensini.

Illinois leads the nation in the number of tornadoes this year. As for a link between tornadoes and climate change, Gensini said it is tenuous at best.

“A lot more research is going to be needed to get a more robust answer,” said Gensini. “Right now we are sort of uncertain.”

Illinois averages around 54 tornadoes per year based on data between 1991-2020, with the peak frequency occurring between April and June.

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