"StormReady" Label Proves Correct
for Ohio County
in Recent Tornado Outbreak
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
A special award ceremony was held to
recognized the outstanding service of those involved in the tornado warning.