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Technology offers many wonderful things, but it sometimes blinds us to common sense.

Such was the case on Sunday, when smart phones blared, weather radios buzzed and television programs were interrupted with tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service and shared over the emergency alert system.

But in Bloomington-Normal, the outdoor tornado sirens didn't sound. And they shouldn't have: the sirens, operated by the McLean County Emergency Management Agency, are used when there's a warning of a severe thunderstorm or tornado AND winds of 70 mph or higher.

The storm that blew through on Sunday generated wind gusts of up to 60 mph, according to the NWS. Winds that strong can cause damage, to be sure, but not as much as even 65 mph, which is the lowest threshold for an EF-0 tornado.

McLean County's rule for sounding the outdoor sirens used to be 60 mph wind speeds, or if confirmed tornado was on the ground, or if a tornado warning had been issued.

But like the boy who cried wolf, too many sirens tend to wear us down. In 2013, the county changed the rules to sounding the sirens when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued by the National Weather Service and winds of 70 mph or greater are forecast or occurring in the area.

We didn't always have sirens. We didn't always have smart phones or weather radios or emergency alert broadcasts. And people died because of a lack of adequate warning. But too many warnings can be just as problematic if people get used to warnings and ignore them.

That's where the common sense and some basic knowledge comes into play:

Tornadoes can hit any month of the year.

They can be as destructive at midday as they can at midnight.

It's as important to be prepared for after the storm as it is before it strikes.

When a siren or alarm sounds, or tornadoes have been predicted, take cover in a sturdy building and stay away from windows. Develop and practice a family safety plan, keep a pair of sturdy shoes within quick grasp, know where everyone will take shelter and where everyone will meet once the danger has passed.

Make sure you have a stash of first aid supplies, water, cash, a blanket and nonperishable food available either in your car or basement, or both.

Take a first aid class and learn CPR. Take a weather-spotter class from the National Weather Service and buy a weather radio.

The Illinois state climatologist's office says tornadoes tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings with 50 percent occurring between 3 and 7 p.m. Illinois averages 64 tornadoes,  but there were none in 1919 and 1933, and as many as 124 tornadoes in 2006.

Central Illinois is in the heart of tornado country. Tornadoes can and will strike again. Make sure you are prepared.


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