St. Charles County residents upset with late tornado sirens

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by Ray Preston / News 4 and Adam McDonald, KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on June 9, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 9 at 5:34 PM

(KMOV) – Residents in St. Charles County are upset when the tornado sirens were late going off when storms hit the St. Louis area on Saturday.

“Things just started flying,” said a resident of St. Charles County.

She also said she started seeing hail coming down sideways when the storms started.

“I was getting ready to head downstairs to the basement, then it stopped, and I’m like okay. Then it was nice and sunny out. Then the sirens came on after it happened.”

Much of the damage occurred in the neighborhood around Dingledine and Old Highway 94 South.

Click here to view photos of the damage. 

The National Weather Service says it issued a tornado warning for St. Charles County at 3:42 p.m. Saturday afternoon and lasted until 4:15 p.m. A second warning was issued for northeastern St. Charles County that started at 4:17 p.m. and was in effect until 4:45 p.m. The Sheriff’s Department says the National Weather Service had assured them it would be “rain only event.”

The National Weather Service went on to say “As a result when emergency management and dispatch and alarm were notified of the tornado, it took longer to activate the sirens.” The NWS says the sirens went of at 3:53 p.m., 11 minutes after the tornado warning was issued.

Many warnings are issued on cell phones and television, but many residents still rely on sirens.

“That’s a concern,” said the resident. “If I would have heard them beforehand, I would have went down to the basement.”

In response to inquiries regarding the warning sirens, the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department issues the following statement:

 
"Generally during the potential for severe weather events, the National Weather Service (NWS) holds conference calls with local emergency managers to discuss the pending situation. On the morning of Saturday, June 7, the NWS did not organize a conference call; however, St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department’s Division of Emergency Management staff monitored an online NWS chat room where NWS conveyed that only rain was expected that day and no severe storms. At 11:33 a.m., Emergency Management duty staff called the NWS again to confirm the situation, inquired as to whether there was any chance of severe weather and was told there was not, that this was going to be a rain only event. As a result, when Emergency Management and Dispatch & Alarm were notified of the Tornado Warning, it took longer to activate the sirens. Emergency Management’s records indicate that the NWS issued the Tornado Warning at 3:42 p.m. and that the sirens went off at 3:53 p.m. These departments are re-evaluating procedures for how to handle similar situations in the future."
 
"As sirens are meant to be a notification system for people outdoors, Emergency Management encourages residents to have multiple forms of communication for accessing weather information, including NOAA weather radios."
 
"Questions about warning sirens in St. Peters should be directed to the City of St. Peters."

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