15 Sep 2014
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Village Changes Storm Siren Policy, Discusses Storm Aftermath

If storm conditions like June 21 happen again, Downers Grove residents will now hear a siren. And while storm cleanup is almost done, many trees are gone.

Village Changes Storm Siren Policy, Discusses Storm Aftermath

After the June 21 tornado came and went with no siren notification, the village changed the policy, broadening the criteria for sounding the siren. The new policy and the village’s overall storm response were the main focus of Tuesday's Village Council meeting.

The new siren policy went into effect July 1. “These changes allow staff to activate the siren during the conditions that were present on June 21, including the National Weather Service issuance of a blanket tornado warning when there is no visual confirmation of a tornado,” said Village Manager Dave Fieldman.

“The new policy allows staff to activate the sirens based on info available form multiple weather reporting sources and is consistent with the technology that is now being used in the industry,” he said.

On June 21, a two-minute tornado traveled just over two miles on the southwest side of Downers Grove, and strong winds caused major tree damage and power outages. But, under the old policy, the storm didn’t meet the criteria, which are based on guidelines for the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security.

The old criteria required a confirmed sighting or National Weather Service determination that the village is in the direct path or a tornado. The sirens were to be activated for three minutes, per qualified event, and no “all clear” signal would be given.

After the storm, however, the village decided that the criteria were too limited and that they should be amended so that if a similar situation occurs again—a tornado or high winds—the siren can be sounded.

Beyond the siren issue, commissioners and residents have thanked the village repeatedly for their efficient response to the storm.

There was no such gratitude towards ComEd. During public comment, one resident said he’d like the village to bring a lawsuit against ComEd. He’s lost power 77 times in a little over a decade and has lost it for six days so far this year.

Fieldman said that the day after the storm 6,600 ComEd customers were without power. Two days later, 4,500 were without power; and the next day, it was down to 200.

After the storm, the village had to remove 120 parkway trees, and extensive damage was done to trees on private property.

The village has had two special tree debris collection dates, and village crews have been working 12-hour shifts since June 21 and expect to continue double shifts until July 8.

Fieldman said the storm response cost the village an estimated $300,000-$500,000 with contractual services and unanticipated staff overtime.

It will cost the village $50,000 to replant the 120 damaged parkway trees. That money would come form the general fund reserves, as well as any possible grants or reimbursements, Fieldman said.

Commissioner Bob Barnett noted that the village’s response was great, and urged people to keep that in mind when the budget cut and basic services issue comes up next. “Rapid recovery is an incumbent responsibility for us.”

Commissioner Sean Durkin said that he truly supported what staff did, but doesn’t want the village “to become too trigger happy,” and sound the siren unnecessarily.

Other news:

Three contracts were awarded for Pershing Avenue storm sewer improvements, and sidewalk replacement and rehabilitation projects.  

The council had a first read on a potential $387,750 project to stabilize various sections of the St. Joseph Creek banks.

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