To earn an NWS StormReady designation, Van Wert County, OH, placed a series of warning alert systems in public locations, including the movie theater destroyed in a storm outbreak that killed 35 people.
Quick action by Van Wert Cinemas manager Scott Shaffer and his staff got more than 50 adults and children out of theaters in the multiplex and into safer conditions in a hallway and restrooms. Minutes later a tornado tore off the building's roof and tossed cars into the screen and front seats where minutes earlier kids and parents had been watching "The Santa Clause 2."
"This story illustrates a great success for the NWS, NOAA Weather Radio and StormReady programs," said NWS Headquarters Warning Coordination Meteorologist Program Manager Stephan Kuhl. "It also illustrates the importance of establishing a close working relationship between our local NWS offices, our emergency management partners, and ultimately the communities that we serve!"
The theater office was equipped with a Federal Signal Corporation local warning alert system called the "Informer." The "Informer" is activated via a digitally-encoded pager signal that automatically turns the unit on and sounds an alert. The theaters unit was tied directly into the Van Wert County siren system and activated immediately once the Van Wert County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) sounded the warning sirens. The unit then remains open for "live" broadcasts by the emergency manager until the reset button is hit.
The Van Wert County EOC received the NWS Tornado Warning via a NOAA Weather Radio receiver tuned to the Fort Wayne, Indiana NWR transmitter frequency. Van Wert County Emergency Manager, Rick McCoy, received the warning and immediately activated the city of Van Wert siren warning system. McCoy also broadcast the NWS Tornado Warning and action statement live over the "Informer."
Seventy of the alert units and a number of NOAA Weather Radio receivers were purchased with grant money by Van Wert County Emergency Management as one of the requirements to become StormReady. Van Wert County was designated StormReady by WFO Northern Indiana on January 10, 2002.
"If we hadn't gone through the StormReady process gotten our warning system in place before this storm, a lot of people would not have gotten the warning, and we could have lost many more lives," McCoy said. "All communities across the country need to look at becoming StormReady, because at some point they're going to have severe weather of some kind. People shouldn't say 'it can't happen here,' because it can."
The tornado touched down in Van Wert County with 13 minutes lead time. The tornado struck the movie theater 28 minutes after the warning was issued. McCoy also broadcast the NWS Tornado Warning and action statement live over the "Informer."
A special award ceremony was held to recognized the outstanding service of those involved in the tornado warning.
On July 17, 2010, Dickinson County, IA, was struck by damaging winds. Thankfully no one lost their lives or was injured during the storm. Many residents and the emergency manager credited the NWS for the advance warning. Local media credited NWS along with the county being StormReady as the main reasons why there were no casualties.
A storm survey conducted by NWS Sioux Falls, SD, which covers this part of Iowa, documented widespread damage across most of the "Great Lakes" area of Dickinson County in northwest Iowa. The greatest amount of damage occurred along a line from Montgomery to Triboji, and finally to West Okoboji. Most of the damage was done to trees and boats, but also a few farm out buildings and storage sheds were either severely damaged or destroyed. All of the damage that occurred was a result of very strong winds associated with a severe thunderstorm that moved through the area Saturday evening, July 17 from 10:15 pm to 11:30 pm CDT. Sustained winds of 50 to 60 mph, along with gusts to 80 to 100 mph occurred for a prolonged period of time. In some cases, residents reported experiencing these strong winds for 20 minutes. Despite the strong winds and all of the damage that occurred, there were no deaths or injuries reported to local authorities.
Warnings were issued for this area of Dickinson County beginning at 10:04 PM CDT Saturday evening and continued through 11:40 PM CDT. Numerous residents reported hearing the warnings and took shelter before the storm hit and credited the National Weather Service in issuing the life-saving warnings.
The Great Lakes area of northwest Iowa is a very popular vacation location for people all around the Midwest. On weekends, the population of this area increases dramatically with many people enjoying water recreational activities. Besides being a popular area for vacations, the Great Lakes area including Dickinson county, has been recognized by the National Weather Service as being a StormReady community and county. In order for a community or county to be recognized as StormReady, there are a number of requirements that need to be met by the community or county. A few examples include having outdoor warning sirens or other methods to notify residents of warnings, as well as working closely with the National Weather Service.
On any given football game day, Auburn University becomes the fifth largest city in Alabama as Jordan Hare Stadium holds over 87,000 people. As a result, any severe weather event can place the fans and visitors in a dangerous situation. On Saturday, September 19, West Virginia was scheduled to play football at Auburn University. The weather forecast showed the increasing possibility of strong to severe thunderstorms in the Auburn area around the scheduled kickoff time of 6:45 p.m. Due to the urgent threat to public safety, Lead Forecaster Ken Lorek directly informed Chance Corbett of Auburn University Emergency Management of the impending danger at the stadium.
According to Corbett, "With storms approaching the stadium close to kick-off time, Ken confirmed our radar observations and took it a step further. Ken said that he was sure that lightning would come directly over Auburn University, but, even if it didn't, we were going to see a rain like no other. He said the rain would come down hard and in large amounts and that high winds would accompany it. Based on Ken's decision support service, the decision was then made to postpone the game due to lightning. We took over the stadium public address system and asked the spectators to seek shelter due to approaching severe storms and lightning."
"This was a critical decision, as never in the history of Auburn University football (over 100 years) has a game been postponed or an announcement made directing fans to seek shelter due to weather. Our game day control team was prepared to make such announcements but needed to make sure that the information we were receiving was timely and accurate."
"The rain and the lightning came almost to the minute that Ken told us it would. The rain entered the stadium from the south and soon began to fall so heavily that it was hard to see the stands across the field. Lightning began to strike all around the stadium and appeared to be very close. We made the right decision and the help we received from your office was invaluable. We are proud to say that we had no reports of people that were injured due to the severe weather incident."
Due to accurate information from the Birmingham Office and trust from Emergency Management, another decision was made once again to postpone the kickoff of a game due to lightning just seven days later.
Corbett stated, "I can't express to you how much we appreciate the support that we received from the Birmingham office and continue to receive every day. As one of the most recent recipients of the designation, StormReady University, I can say that we are very serious about severe weather preparedness at Auburn University."
According to Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist-in-Charge, "These types of decision support efforts are keeping our office on the forefront of relevancy and service to our many customers across central Alabama."