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More than tornadoes: Elburn talks emergency sirens

Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:54 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 7:55 a.m. CST

ELBURN – On May 20, officials in Elburn noted a severe thunderstorm headed toward the village, with reports of large hail, as large as tennis balls in some areas. The outdoor warning sirens were set off.

Elburn's leaders stand by their decision, saying that large hail and strong winds can be just as damaging as tornadoes in some instances. But they acknowledged some residents were puzzled, unaware that, in February, the village's policy was expanded to allow the sirens to sound in the event of a severe thunderstorm warning, with wind speeds of at least 70 mph or golf ball-sized hail.

On Monday, board members discussed the matter at a committee of the whole meeting at Elburn Village Hall. Trustee Dave Gualdoni, who works closely with the Elburn Community Response Team, helped craft the changes to the village's policy, along with Police Chief Steve Smith. Gualdoni said he was looking to get the word out about the policy, as well as address any questions fellow village board members might have.

Gualdoni said in the event of strong storms, he is concerned about the safety of people who might be out, especially at local athletic fields. Village President Dave Anderson said that was a good reason to alert residents.

"I think it was right that the sirens went off," Anderson said.

Gualdoni said before the change, the sirens would be set off with a tornado warning. Trustees were not against the sirens going off for severe storms. Some wondered whether they could be set off for other emergencies. Trustee Bill Grabarek said, for instance, that if a train were to derail in the village, it could cause a dangerous situation.

Smith said he didn't know any reason why the village couldn't use the sirens any way officials wanted to, but he also said that, in such a situation, it might not be best for residents to do what typically is done when sirens are sounded – likely heading toward their basements. Instead, Smith said, it's possible officials would go to neighborhoods and provide instructions for residents.

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