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Plainfield Spotters Didn't See Indications of Tornado: Police

Plainfield/Romeoville tornado was one of six confirmed during Monday night's storms.

Screenshot, www.facebook.com/nrnilstormchaser
Screenshot, www.facebook.com/nrnilstormchaser

Late Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed that six EF-1 tornadoes touched down during Monday night’s storms — including one that hit northeast Plainfield and northwest Romeoville.

The news prompted some in Plainfield to ask the question: Why weren’t the village’s tornado sirens activated?

According to Plainfield Police Cmdr. Ken Ruggles, anyone in a supervisory position within the Plainfield Police Department, fire protection district or Plainfield Emergency Management Agency can request activation if they believe conditions are right.

Ruggles said he was the highest-ranking supervisor on duty Monday night, leaving the decision to him as he consulted with trained weather spotters.

“We had spotters out all on the west side of town looking for rotation,” he said. Ruggles said spotters kept watching during the first round of storms, then headed back out as the second round of severe weather rolled in.

By the time NWS issued the tornado warning at 9:58 p.m., spotters believed the storm had already passed over them, Ruggles said.

“When they issued the warning, the storm had already passed the west edge of town,” he said. “It came right down behind our heads.”

In its report on the storms, the NWS put the time of the Plainfield/Romeoville tornado at 9:55 p.m., ending at 9:58 p.m., which was estimated based on radar.

Although the NWS said Doppler radar showed possible rotation, Ruggles said spotters were not seeing any damage or signs indicative or a tornado.

“Nobody had seen rotation or debris other than that associated with straight-line winds,” Ruggles said. “There was discussion among the spotters, myself being the highest ranking, and we made the decision not to activate.”

After the storms passed, Ruggles said the first report of damage came from the Reserve subdivision, where a resident reported a gas leak that happened when a grill was yanked away from a house. 

According to the Joliet Weather Center, the twisters were tough to spot. “Not only were they rain wrapped and hard to see but it was night to add on to it,” the site reported.

“A tornado was confirmed based on damage to mainly trees but also to some residences,” the NWS report said of the Plainfield storm, adding the twister crossed I-55 near mile marker 261 and “was embedded within straight-line wind damage that continued into Lockport and further east-southeast.”

“Did we get hit? We got hit,” Ruggles said. “Were we prepared for it? We thought we were. Had we had any other indications, yes, we would have activated.”

Power had been restored to most of those who lost electricity during the storms by Wednesday afternoon, Ruggles said, and storm cleanup continued.

“We’re very thankful that there were no reported storm-related injuries,” Ruggles said.

Tornado timeline

The NWS said six EF-1 tornadoes hit northern Illinois Monday night.

According to the NWS, the first twister struck at about 9:16 p.m. in Earlville in LaSalle County, causing numerous downed trees as well as roof damage. One garage was also blown out.

Another touched down in southwest Kendall County near Lisbon at 9:38 p.m., damaging two farmsteads, including destroying an outbuilding on one and snapping a large tree.

At 9:55 p.m., another tornado with a maximum speed of 95 mph struck, hitting a three-mile area in Plainfield and Romeoville. More than 50 trees were downed, and minor damage such as peeled-off siding and shingles, as well as blown-out windows, was reported to numerous homes in the Woodlands of the Reserve and the Lakewood Falls subdivisions, NWS said.

Two other tornadoes struck Monday near the village of Grant Park in Kankakee County, the weather service reported.

The sixth tornado was in Thomson, Illinois, located near the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois.

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