Cameras provide more warning for storms in northern Illinois

Published 04/29 2014 03:42PM

Updated 04/29 2014 05:28PM

ROCKFORD -- One Illinois county has a new tool to help give more advanced warning of tornadoes and severe weather. New cameras are being installed on tornado sirens in the Rockford area. Marissa Sherer shows us how they provide views of the entire western border of Winnebago County.

"Down the block there was huge tree across the road."

Lisa Johnson says she'll never forget July 5, 2003, and the days following when a storm sent trees around her home crashing to the ground.

"It was green outside. I had my dog and my boyfriend and me and my dog came out and there was trees down everywhere and it was just this green color."

Storms like that one and those which tore through Arkansas overnight will continue, but new technology is making it easier to track bad weather and warn us to take cover. Here inside the Emergency Operations Center at the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department, employees are usually tracking strong storms with radar.

But now, they'll also have their eyes to the skies thanks to these cameras. Ten cameras are mounted on tornado sirens stretching the entire western edge of the county so emergency management workers can actually see the storm as it rolls in.

"It gives us just one more tool to turn on the sirens."

Jerry Wiltfang, the center's director, says the cameras could save lives because in some cases they can spot what radar can't.

"With the angle the radar is, if the tornado is low, it may not pick that up, so, with the cameras, you can see it visually, but it might not show up on radar."

Just an added piece of technology putting minds like Lisa Johnson's at ease, if and when another strong storm hits the stateline.

The total cost is $8,000. Right now, there are ten installed. Four more will be put up in the next few weeks.

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