Cameras Mounted to Tornado Sirens

By: Marissa Sherer
By: Marissa Sherer

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) – The next time severe weather hits Winnebago County, emergency management workers will not only have their eyes on the radar, but also on cameras, with views of the entire western border of Winnebago County.

Lisa Johnson says she’ll never forget July 5, 2003 and the days following when a micro-burst 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 the ones that tore through Arkansas overnight will continue, but new technology is making it easier to track bad weather and warn us to take cover.

At 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.

10 cameras are mounted on the 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,” said Winnebago County Emergency Operations Coordinator, Jerry Wiltfang.

Wiltfang says the cameras could save lives because in some cases they can see wha the 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 the radar.

The cameras are an added piece of technology that is putting minds, like Lisa Johnson’s at ease if and when another strong storm hits the Stateline.

The cameras cost a total of $8,000. Right now, there are 10 up. Four more will be installed in the next few weeks.

We here at 23 News are also working with the county on tapping into that technology so we can also see what’s coming.

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