Yesterday we were on-air for a storm that had a Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Craighead County. Being wall-to-wall for a storm before it has a tornado warning is typically outside of our policy, but we felt the threat for hail was high enough that we needed to break into the afternoon soap operas to warn people of this strong storm. When we initially broke in at 2:45, there was no rotation on radar and no reports sent to us regarding rotation. We were showing golf ball size hail indications AND we had pictures/reports of the large hail as it moved through SW Craighead County. We only know what radar is showing and what spotters are relaying to us at the time. If nobody passes along the information to us, we can't see from the walls of a studio in North Jonesboro.
At 2:54, we get our first report that the sirens are blowing in Jonesboro. KAIT does not air the sirens and we do not know why they are airing until someone relays that information to us. Some cities blow their sirens only when a tornado warning is issued, some blow them when they see a funnel or tornado, and some blow them for any severe storm that moves into the area. We had no idea why they were blowing. So, as with all circumstances, there are lessons that can be learned. Did everything go 100% right during this storm? No. Here's what could be better:
- We need constant communication with the E911 center. I hope to have that soon. We are meeting with E911 Director Jeff Presley next week to address this challenge. We have constant communication with the National Weather Service, but there was no tornado warning at the time it touched down. If we had constant communication, we would have instantly had the report from the Jonesboro police officer that first spotted the tornado. Radar is great, but nothing beats human eyeballs.
- We need to never discount the siren. I'll take that blame on that. There was no tornado warning from NWS, no reports (sent to us), or substantial radar data to support a tornado. We had no reason to believe there was a tornado at the time. From now on, if there is a siren, we are to assume it is a tornado and trust the E911 center that it is a valid threat. They have a great E911 director, Jeff Presley, and we are going to make sure that we have point #1 covered in the future.
- Take Severe Thunderstorm warnings seriously. We were already on-air for the storm because it had dangerous winds and large hail, but everyone needs to realize that if a storm is that strong, it can put down a tornado. It's never impossible.
With all of that said, I do not want to be misquoted from our coverage. I have had 4-5 people complain about us not knowing why the sirens were blowing. If nobody tells me the storm report, I have no way of knowing. Here's a clip showing our coverage from the time I heard of the sirens blowing to when we got the report and when the latest radar scan picked up on the rotation. Notice, I mentioned that they MAY have blown the sirens to get people in from the severe hail, but I still did not know why. It was about 3-4 minutes of not knowing of the tornado report.With that said... we were tracking the tornado prior to an official tornado warning. Here's the clip:
With limited information, we did the best we could. I'm not completely satisfied, but we're going to learn from yesterday's event, meet with city officials, and resolve the problem to make sure everyone is in constant communication in the future. I always feel there is room for improvement and yesterday was an example of how we can spot a communication breakdown and resolve the problem.
I apologize for that 3-4 minutes that the sirens sounded in which we did not have that report. We will all work to improve that communication breakdown. I hope that you will still depend on the Region 8 Storm TEAM in the future. I just praise God that nobody was seriously hurt or killed. As I type this, the latest death toll from the outbreak across the south sits at 269. Pray for those in the hard hit areas and praise God that we were not hit as hard.
Have a good day,