Naperville residents and officials are left wondering why tornado sirens weren’t activated on Saturday morning when an EF-0 twister caused tree damage and minor structural damage in the community.
According to damage estimates conducted by the National Weather Service, the tornado touched down southeastern Aurora and ultimately tracked into Naperville at approximately 5:40 a.m.
That tornado had already lifted off the ground by the time a tornado warning was issued for the storm at approximately 5:47 a.m., due to strengthening rotation within the storm.
That warning still included the southern portion of Naperville, but sirens still didn’t go off, according to officials.
“That warning included parts of southern Naperville in northern Will County, and the City’s Emergency Management Agency believes that Naperville’s sirens should have sounded at that time,” officials said in a statement. “The sirens did not activate, and City staff is currently investigating why with extreme urgency.”
Paula Cree was asleep in her Naperville home when the storms hit the area.
“My weather alert came over on my telephone. From National Weather Service, that woke me up,” she said. “I stepped onto my deck to hear sirens, but there were no sirens. I heard nothing.”
The alert that Cree received on her phone was for the tornado warning that was issued shortly after the initial twister had hit the community, but now she’s asking why the potentially life-saving sirens did not go off.
“What happened? Did somebody drop the ball? Who’s supposed to be in charge,” she said.
Dan Nelson, who works for the Naperville Emergency Management Agency, confirmed that NWS did not issue a tornado warning while the twister was on the ground, meaning that the agency’s sirens did not automatically activate.
Still, he says that those sirens should have at the very least activated when the warning was issued at 5:47 a.m.
“We believe our equipment should have automatically activated sirens since part of Naperville was part of the warning, and we’re looking into what may have happened,” he said.
Nelson says that review process is also including a look at the community’s backup system.
“We have a secondary method where a 911 dispatcher can receive a warning from NWS and manually activate the sirens,” he said.
Another local resident said that the tornado knocked down her fence, and she’s angry that sirens didn’t sound.
“I could’ve been hurt with the glass, and not hearing the siren,” she said. “It knocked down my fence easily. I was really disappointed.”
Officials say that an EF-0 tornado, with peak wind speeds of 85 miles per hour, was potentially on the ground for as long as six minutes between 5:40 a.m. and 5:46 a.m. Tree damage and some minor structural damage was reported.
The tornado was one of three that briefly touched down in DuPage and Will counties. Another tornado touched down in Romeoville and tracked through Crest Hill and Joliet, while a third touched down near Manhattan, causing tree and structural damage.
Both of those tornadoes were also classified as EF-0 twisters.
In a statement, Naperville officials encouraged the public to investigate additional means of receiving weather alerts in the case of fast-moving weather.
“We also encourage all residents and business owners to investigate additional means to receive weather alerts inside their homes, such as purchasing a weather radio, downloading an app or activating Wireless Emergency Alerts on your smart phone,” the city said in a statement.