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Weather alerts display technology's value

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It’s easy to complain about the intrusion that technology has had on many of our lives.

But there also are many times when technology makes a big difference.

That was the case Sunday, when a vicious cluster of thunderstorms marched across the Midwest. One of the hardest-hit areas in Illinois was the community of Washington, where an estimated 500 homes were destroyed or damaged by a powerful tornado.

Locally, more than 200 buildings were damaged in Coal City and Diamond.

There was one fatality in Washington and only eight as the result of the many storms that struck throughout the Midwest.

The death toll likely would have been higher without technology and social media.

Forecasters were able to pinpoint the storms and predict where the worst of the weather would go. These predictions were uncannily accurate and without a doubt gave communities a chance to be prepared.

In addition, warnings on websites, radio, TV, storm sirens and social media alerts gave those in the path of the storms a chance to take cover.

As in any natural situation, good fortune also played a role. In Washington, many families were in church. “I don’t think we had one church damaged,” Washington Mayor Gary Manier said.

A minister officiating church services in Washington said that he heard a multitude of electronic messages going off, warning churchgoers about the impending storm. The services were halted, and everyone moved to a safe area until the storm passed.

Of course, technology can’t replace generosity and help. As these communities clean up after the storm, they will need assistance from a wide variety of sources. It’s amazing how quickly disaster services, such as the Red Cross, are on the scene after an incident.

It can be annoying when some people spend more time staring at their cellphones during dinner than conversing, and it’s irritating when someone doesn’t have the foresight to turn off their phone during a meeting or a performance.

But the use of technology can save lives, and Sunday was proof of that once again.

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