Hampshire parks to get lightning prediction system by spring

  • A new lightning prediction system should make Hampshire parks safer during sporting events and festivals such as Coon Creek Country Days, pictured here.

    A new lightning prediction system should make Hampshire parks safer during sporting events and festivals such as Coon Creek Country Days, pictured here. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 11/24/2015 5:48 PM

Festivals and youth sporting events draw hundreds to Hampshire parks, fields, baseball diamonds and stands, leaving event organizers responsible for making tough decisions during questionable weather.

"It's tough to have your staff or a coach call a game, but there's a certain point where safety comes first," said Hampshire Township Park District Director Laura Schraw said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A new lightning prediction system would make that decision easier -- and the parks safer, Schraw said.

By next spring, a Thor Guard system that measures atmospheric conditions will be installed in three Hampshire parks: Ralph Seyller Memorial Park at 400 E. Jefferson Ave.; Bruce Ream Memorial Park at 400 W. Jefferson Ave.; and the village-owned Orris Ruth Park in the Tuscany Woods subdivision.

If the system detects weather conditions that are appropriate for lightning, it will give off a warning siren, signaling that the parks need to be evacuated, Schraw said. After the siren is activated on the dome-like device, a strobe light will flash until the system emits an "all-clear" signal.

"Obviously when you have 300 kids out there, you start to worry about safety," Schraw said. "It's much easier if it's not left up to a judgment call. This is scientific-based, which is better for us. It takes a lot of that guessing out of it."

The devices for all three parks will cost a total of $20,000, which will be taken from the village's impact fees, Schraw said.

The park district recently presented the idea to the village board members, all of whom favored the idea, she said.

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"We're just excited that the village was in support of an improvement like this for the residents and all the participants in our sports programs," Schraw said.

She added that the new system will also make safer the Hampshire Cook Creek Country Days festival, a four-day summer event that draws large crowds to Bruce Ream Memorial Park.

Several surrounding towns use the lightning-detection systems in their parks as well, Schraw said, including Elgin, Lake in the Hills, St. Charles and Bartlett.

Schraw said the park district will purchase the system this winter and have it installed before the sporting season starts next year.

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