Baker Report: Responding to disaster

Photo courtesy NIU meteorology professor Ashley Walker
Photo courtesy NIU meteorology professor Ashley Walker

The northern Illinois region was hit Thursday evening by several tornadoes, causing extensive damage, injuries and loss of life. The towns of Fairdale, Kirkland, Rochelle and Flagg Center were hardest hit. Tornadoes also were confirmed near Dunlap and Cherry Valley.

Yesterday’s weather event underscores the importance of having emergency plans in place to be prepared for any emergency. It is a responsibility the university does not take lightly, and in fact, is something for which the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety trains for regularly.

Thursday’s weather situation was monitored throughout the day, and a tornado watch was issued for several Illinois counties. Although a tornado warning was not issued for DeKalb or the NIU campus, when NIU meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste identified a tornado west of DeKalb, the university began executing its plan. An emergency warning notification was queued up and ready to go in the event the weather approached campus.

Public safety officers were dispatched to each of the residence halls and the Holmes Student Center. At Stevenson and Grant towers and the HSC, they assisted with visual observation of the storm.

Fortunately, it was determined that the path of the tornadic storms was northeast of campus, the city did not activate its tornado sirens and campus emergency notification was not necessary. However, public safety officers remained in the residence halls with students to assist until the storm system moved through the area.

NIU Cares Day 2014
NIU Cares Day 2014

The university later received a request for aid from nearby Rochelle and Fairdale. With the campus secure, 10 Police and Public Safety personnel were dispatched to Rochelle to help establish a perimeter and to assist with traffic. DeKalb County requested warming station and transportation for Fairdale victims and responders, and NIU was again able to respond with Huskie Safe Line vans as well as a 47-passenger bus.

Today, the campus community is showing what being a Huskie is all about.

NIU meteorologists are assisting the National Weather Service in assessing the damage from the tornadoes. Volunteers are mobilizing to help with the cleanup if requested. Food and supplies are being collected by numerous campus groups, and NIU Police and Public Safety is assisting in the regional recovery effort in cooperation with IEMA authorities.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors and friends who lost so much. The campus community stands at the ready to provide the appropriate support and aid to the affected communities under the guidance and specifications of local public safety and disaster relief agencies.

Thank you to the many NIU campus community members who have volunteered to help our neighbors in the community in their time of need.

Forward Together,

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