Archive for Monday, March 13, 2006

Storm-watchers are surprised by severity

March 13, 2006


Tornado sirens intended to warn residents of coming storms sounded several minutes after severe weather hit the area Sunday morning.

"It was five minutes before a siren ever went off," Lawrence resident Debra Myers said after the weather subsided Sunday.

Myers and her family spotted a black funnel cloud spinning near their house at 24th and Scottsdale streets around 8 a.m. Sunday, but she said that her neighbors didn't have the warning they would have needed if a tornado would have struck head-on.

Dozens of other residents reported the same experience.

Douglas County officials said that they knew about the possibility of strong storms as early as Saturday afternoon, and by 7:30 a.m. Sunday had gathered officials in the county's Emergency Operations Center to prepare.

There, they collected information from the National Weather Service and a handful of storm spotters working throughout the county. Information began streaming in just after 7:30 a.m., Assistant Emergency Management Director Teri Smith said.

"That's how we make that determination," Smith said about the process.

But the county's 33 sirens didn't go off until 8:08 a.m., Smith said.

By then, police and medical dispatchers had already begun answering 911 calls reporting storm damage. Dispatchers said the first call came in at 8 a.m.

6News meteorologist Jennifer Schack said that the storm had no history of tornadic activity for which sirens would be used to warn of the approaching danger.

"You couldn't predict that the microburst was going to happen," Schack said.

The sirens, Smith said, are not intended to be the area's primary source of storm information, and are only intended for people who are outdoors at the time the sirens go off.

Smith said that people should have been listening to their weather radios or watching the news when the storm hit.

"Everyone has personal accountability," she said.

Smith said that she would not have done anything differently in warning people about the storm.

March 12, 2006, Storm

Related content for the storm

  • A year later, microburst's sudden fury still evident (03-11-07)
  • EMS chief stays positive after injuries (03-11-07)
  • Comments

    frkds 12 years, 3 months ago

    we should fire Smith not Mike Wildgen. She was incredibly insensitive.

    John Hunter 12 years, 3 months ago

    I think Smith is an idiot. How many people were watching the weather channel or listening to a weather radio at 7:30 on Sunday morning? If she would not do anything differently next time she should have a different job next time.

    kcwarpony 12 years, 3 months ago

    I think Smith is STILL dropping the ball by not advising everyone to invest in a weather alert radio. I have one and it sounded the severe thunderstorm watch at 5am and then a warning at 7:50am. Then it sounded the alert for a tornado warning. Normally the alerts are given with plenty of time but I think this caught the weather people off guard. I would advise everyone to buy a weather alert radio (one of the programmable ones) and set it for Douglas County.

    justathought 12 years, 3 months ago


     I'll remember to turn my weather radio on before I go to bed at night so that I can listen to it all night just in case you drop the ball agian. Waking up to the sirens instead of the shingles being ripped off the roof would of been nice.

    Thanks for nothing,


    KansasKel 12 years, 3 months ago

    The Emergency Management team works hard to keep us safe. It was unfortunate that in this case the sirens weren't sounded sooner but this storm seemed to develop almost on top of us.

    Seems like people are either complaining because they don't like warnings where storms turn out to be nothing, or they are complaining because the warnings weren't fast enough.

    People seem to foget that regardless of all the technology that's available, weather can still change in an instant. Teri's comment was absolutely appropriate - we all do have personal accountability to be aware of the weather situation. EP will continue to do their best to protect us but we have to do our part to remain aware of what the weather is doing AND what to do when the weather is bad.

    Use this storm as a reminder to get prepared for severe weather season!

    girly 12 years, 3 months ago

    I live west of town and the sirens at the lake went off a good 5 minutes after the storm passed through. It made us wonder if there was another one coming or something, because obviously, they missed the boat on the first one.

    jhawkfan05 12 years, 3 months ago

    I agree with truthlawrence!!!!!!!! As noted right from the article: The sirens, Smith said, are not intended to be the area's primary source of storm information, and are only intended for people who are outdoors at the time the sirens go off.

    Smith said that people should have been listening to their weather radios or watching the news when the storm hit.

    "Everyone has personal accountability," she said.

    Smith said that she would not have done anything differently in warning people about the storm.


    planetwax 12 years, 3 months ago

    KansasKel, it's nice of you to stand up for Smith, but the truth remains that most everyone is talking about the fact that little to no warning was given.

    In North Lawrence, I was listening to thunder ocurring three to four seconds after I witnessed the reflection of lightning coming in through a window. That means the storm is supposed be approximately three miles away, right? (maybe not). Anyway, it was about two seconds later that I shut off my blowdryer to tell my husband that it's a good idea to turn off the computer. And then, the power went out. Looking out the small window in our bathroom, I saw debri flying westward like bullets in the wind. It was as if there was a vacuum pulling it across the window view. Then, looking out of the window closer, I saw that our six foot fence had blown over and our Little Tykes playhouse was floating across our deck. Turning the radio on, KANU had Morning Edition warnings (no offense to favorite). I later found out that Southwest Lawrence also experienced severe wind. It takes me 15-20 minutes to get from my home to my friend's home in SW Lawrence. How fast did that storm travel over Lawrence? Couldn't there have been a siren going by the time it hit North Lawrence??

    Do I need to pay Sunflower a bunch of money so that I can get cable and be responsible, even if my power is out? I'm sure glad I was responsible enough to buy rechargable batteries so I could be responsible enough to recharge them so I could be responsible enough to turn on the radio so I could be responsible enough to hear Morning Edition when I should have been hearing a WARNING.

    Oh, well. What do I know?


    myopinion 12 years, 3 months ago

    This has to be the biggest cope-out I have heard in recent memory by a public official. I guess if there was no tornado or funnel damage, then it is excusable that the sirens didn't go off until after the brunt of the storm passed. I live in North Lawrence, and a healthy tree I planted 12 years ago was snapped off at ground level. It fell north. My trash cans, which were sitting about 40 yards north of that tree, were thrown south and landed right beside it. I found one of the lids to a trash can in front of my house, which is about 60 yards north of where the tree fell. No circulation going on here? I also heard the roar of this storm. If a funnel has to actually touch down to become a tormado, that doesn't mean that a funnel aloft didn't cause the damage. It doesn't turn it into straight line winds or even a microburst. I have never heard of a microburst that damages an entire city from south to north the size of Lawrence. Too many people know what they saw and what they heard. Seems to me that officials just don't want us to think there was tornadic activity and that they didn't warn us ahead of time. If the sirens are not intended to warn people who are asleep and unaware, and are only for people who are outside--then I would like to know why we all waste our time going through fake alarms at work and at school to make sure we know where to go, including putting our hands over our heads to protect ourselves from injury. This woman needs to find another job where she can care about the people she has been entrusted to warn.

    Linda Endicott 12 years, 3 months ago

    I live in Ottawa, and we went through this a few years ago. Tornado went right over town. Thank God it didn't touch down, but there was damage.

    The sirens never went off, even though the weather service had issued a tornado warning.

    I went around town and asked several people why this was so. The people at the radio station didn't even know the difference between a watch and a warning. They kept trying to tell me that a watch was when a tornado had actually been spotted.

    I was told by the sheriff's department that the reason they didn't turn on the sirens was because if they turned on the sirens every time a warning occurs, and then nothing happens, that people will stop paying attention to them. So, even when the weather service issues a tornado warning, they don't feel obligated to turn on the sirens?

    They don't pay any attention to residents calling to tell them that they saw a funnel cloud, because of course we aren't trained spotters.

    Then they claimed there wasn't actually a tornado warning. There certainly was. I saw it on the weather channel, and heard it on another radio station.

    How stupid is that?

    We were under a tornado warning Sun. morning as well. Same storm that went through Lawrence a little later. Guess what? No sirens...

    Guess they're waiting for one to hit really bad, and kill someone, before they start scrambling to cover their a$$es...

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