I-Team finds lag in notification system for Lucas County tornado warning

Published: Jun. 16, 2023 at 9:34 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - There’s a lot of confusion about when and why the Lucas County tornado sirens sounded when they did Thursday night.

Some people claimed the sirens sounded too late, but it turns out they were signaling a secondary storm. Now the 13 Action News I-Team answers the question as to why. We’ve also found a major lag in this system which costs people valuable minutes in a storm.

As the sun came up in Point Place Friday morning, the light revealed the massive cleanup operation.

“It was very scary because we could see the funnel, we could see the cloud rotating, and it was coming zig zag against us,” said Rachel Burrell who lives in Point Place.

What they did not hear were tornado sirens. That’s because the National Weather Service did not issue a tornado warning as the Point Place storm approached. 25 minutes after the storm they did hear the sirens.

“There was no point. Everything that was already done. Everybody is outside, making sure everybody is ok and siren is off and we’re outside already,” said Tonya Hildebrand, who lives in Point Place.

It turns out there was a point because the storm reformed and powered through Lucas County again.

“Once we did receive notification from National Weather Service that there was a tornado warning it was for the Harbor View, Oregon, Jerusalem township area. And at that point the tornado warnings were sounded,” said Abby Buchhop, director of Lucas County Emergency Management.

Lucas County activates all sirens county wide once they get an official tornado warning from the National Weather Service. So from Berkey to Oregon, you’ll hear a siren if there’s a warning anywhere in the county. It’s not city by city or region by region.

“That’s not what we do in Lucas County. There are some communities outside of Lucas County, outside of Ohio that they will set of sirens based on the geographic polygon that the national weather service uses. In Lucas County our procedure is to set off all sirens or no sirens off,” said Buchhop.

But we found a problem with the Lucas County system. The first notice of the tornado warning on 13 Action News Thursday at 6:25 p.m.

According to Lucas County EMA officials, at 6:27 p.m., the Lucas County vendor starts text alert notifications but then it took between 6:33 p.m. and 6:34 p.m. for Lucas County EMA to be able to confirm the tornado warning with National Weather Service forecasters. Only then at 6:35 p.m. did Lucas County EMA activate its siren system.

It takes a bit for that to begin, then the sirens go for about three minutes. We have video of those sirens sounding outside 13 Action News at Dorr and Richards at 6:42 p.m.

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