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Look to the skies and be prepared

Weather buff, officials offer tips for staying safe during tornado season

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While most people would run in the opposite path of a tornado, Billy Faletti of Granville is compelled to chase them down.

Faletti is an amateur storm chaser. He is also studying meteorology at Illinois Valley Community College. He will transfer to Northern Illinois University in August.

Faletti saw his first tornado in November 2013, and he has seen more than 30 twisters since then.

“If you see a tornado in person, especially a substantial one, it doesn’t even look like it should be happening,” Faletti said. “It looks like it’s not even physically possible. It’s just so out of the ordinary.”

On Feb. 28, 2017, the day Ottawa and Naplate were struck by a tornado, Faletti followed a tornado that formed east of Rutland and moved toward Dana and Long Point.

“We watched as the little second tornado started weakening, the roof of a house just went up into the air and into the tree line,” Faletti said. “We came up 90 seconds later. We wanted to make sure everyone was OK inside of it. We helped them out. It was not something I want to experience again. It’s obviously the worst moment of their lives.”

Technology

La Salle fire chief Andy Bacidore said technology helps with early warnings.

“With the technology that’s out there, cellphones and computers, there are very few people out there who don’t know what’s going on, which is a great thing,” Bacidore said.

Connie Brooks, director of La Salle County Emergency Management Agency, said April, May and June are the peak months of severe weather and tornado weather.

A program called the Integrated Public Alert Warning System sends out severe weather alerts to cellphones. The program is run through the Department of Homeland Security and National Weather Service.

“If something comes up, they will send out an IPAWS alert, which goes to every cellphone in the area,” Brooks said. “It follows cellphone towers. If someone is traveling, it will actually travel with them. If they’re in an area and they have their emergency alerts on, they will get those notifications.”

Keenan Campbell, director of Bureau County EMA, said the Ready Bureau app is a useful tool.

“It has contact information, preparedness guides and road closure information. It shows where the shelters are. Citizens can actually send us photos and videos through the app.”

Campbell said his office also posts National Weather Service watches and warnings to Facebook and Twitter.

“In the world of social media that we live in, we thought that was a good thing to have,” Campbell said. “It’s just another place to push that information to.”

Faletti recommends purchasing a NOAA weather radio.

“Your phones do pretty good job, but most of the time they’re not going to wake you up,” he said.

Chauntelle Biagi-Bruer, coordinator of Putnam County EMA, said it is important to take a community approach to alerting people because not everyone uses or has access to technology.

“We utilize radio, newspaper, weather radio, TV, Facebook (Putnam County Illinois Emergency Management), BCR Alerts (email and text), outdoor sirens, phone calls, and sometimes going door to door if the situation needs that,” Biagi-Bruer said.

Brynn Twait can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com. Follow her on Twitter @NT_Peru.

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Jordan Havlik works as a reporter covering the City of Peru. He can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com.

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