Crawford County Sheriff responds to tornado siren queries


BUCYRUS — On behalf of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, I wish to express our sadness and concern for those affected by the tornado that passed through Crawford County on Sept 4. My staff responded to several calls for assistance during the storm, and stopped in to check on residents during the last two days to see if we could provide further assistance.

I have heard information in the public that may not be entirely correct and wanted to take a moment to answer a couple of questions or concerns that I heard.

Were the tornado sirens set off in Crawford County?

A. No. My office receives up to date weather notifications from several sources. We receive notifications from the National Weather Service though our dispatch terminals, and on occasion, will receive a telephone call from them, putting us on notice of pending bad weather. We also have a computer in the dispatch center, dedicated to only weather radar. On the evening of Sept. 4, we received the following notifications:

9:08 p.m. – weather statement of strong thunderstorms; 9:25 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning; 9:50 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning; 10:14 p.m. – Flood Advisory; 10:30 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning; 10:36 p.m. – Flash Flood Warning; 10:43 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning; 11:01 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning; 11:15 p.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning has expired.

My office received the first call at 10:48 p.m.. We have two dispatchers assigned to a shift. Over the next 72 minutes, dispatch made and or received approximately 160 phone calls, including 911 calls. Twenty-four of these calls required an emergency response. Law, fire and EMS was dispatched in addition to the calls received and highway clean-up crews, power companies and the Red Cross were contacted. We received no tornado warnings during this time, and it was the following day before the National Weather Service was able to confirm that an EF 2 tornado had passed through Crawford County.

Why didn’t the weather service issue a tornado warning?

A. The National Weather Service has issued the following statement:

Labor Day Tornado – September 4, 2017

Thunderstorms moved into Crawford and Richland County after 9 p.m. EDT on the evening of September 4th. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Cleveland were monitoring the situation and issued Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for Crawford County from 925-1030 p.m. EDT and again from 1030-1115 p.m. EDT as the storms intensified. Both of these Severe Thunderstorm Warnings indicated that a tornado was possible. Given the time of day, NWS Cleveland received no reports of the tornado or damage and no visual confirmation of the tornado until after it was over. NWS also issued a Flash Flood Warning for Crawford County at 1036 p.m. EDT and a Severe Thunderstorms Warning for downstream Richland County at 1059 p.m. EDT

NWS Meteorologists base warning decisions on several factors. These include radar imagery, environmental conditions, and reports from trained weather spotters. Unfortunately in this case a tornado warning was not issued. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Cleveland will continue to review the event in an effort to improve warning services and better fulfill our mission to protect lives and property.

Why was the tornado siren set off in North Robinson and not in Crestline?

A. North Robinson does not have a tornado siren. Tornado sirens in Crawford County are set off from a single location, the Sheriff’s Office. Crestline is responsible for setting off sirens in Crestline. It was decided several years ago that we could speed up the notification process by setting tornado sirens off for the entire county, instead of trying to determine what areas might be affected and isolating it to only those sirens. When a tornado warning is received, law enforcement and first responders are paged and notified of the warning. Law Enforcement and first responders respond to those areas, and track the storm as it passes through the county. This can be very difficult to monitor during heavy rains and darkness. This tornado developed without warning, however deputies were patrolling during this storm.

What other options do residents have to receive advanced weather information?

  • Crawford County has a WENS system available to the public. This is a public notification system that was purchased and managed by Crawford County Emergency Management. In the event of an emergency or severe weather condition, an alert may be sent to the phone number provided by voice, text and/or email.
  • This is a free service provided by Crawford County, however, normal message fees may apply. To receive text messages to your cell phone, your cell phone must have text messaging capabilities. Notifications are dependent upon external providers (phone carrier, cell phone, email). Crawford County cannot guarantee notifications will be received by the intended recipient.
  • Alerts sent from Crawford Alerts will originate from 69310 for text messages and 419-563-1870 for phone calls. Please be sure to save these in your phone under Crawford Alerts.

Crawford County EMA, the Sheriff’s Office and other agencies have promoted this useful resource. If you have not signed up for this free service, I urge you to do do. In addition to tornado information, you can also receive services such a snow levels, boil advisories, and road closures. You can sign up for this service by visiting the following internet link: http://entry.inspironlogistics.com/crawford_co_oh/wens.cfm

I want to thank the fire departments, Crawford County Highway Garage, Ohio Department of Transportation, and Township Trustees, who quickly responded to this large scale incident. They quickly removed trees and other debris from the roadways, set up detours around heavily damaged areas, and pitched in wherever they were asked to help. Without your help, my staff would not have been able to reach many of the affected areas.

I would also like to thank the many residents and volunteers who showed up to lend a hand, and many of you are still out there cleaning up today. It’s nice to see a community come together like it has over the last couple of days.

If my staff or I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 419-562-7906.

Respectfully,

Scott M. Kent

Crawford County Sheriff

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Editor’s note: Sheriff Scott Kent submitted this letter to address questions about the tornado that touched down several times Monday night in Crawford County.