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We were concerned to hear that an F1 tornado touched down in Shelby County on Friday, but we were terrified to learn later that residents in some pockets of the county didn’t hear storm sirens and weren’t warned of a dangerous weather system that was approaching.
Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Whitman said the sirens were sounded when a surprising siege of funnel clouds were spotted by radar moving east from Jefferson County around 2:30 p.m.
One of those clouds had descended near Jeffersontown and done significant damage.
Many residents heard the alerts, to be sure, and Shelby County Public Schools reacted appropriately by holding students in their emergency locations until the storm alert subsided around 3 p.m.
One of the funnels alit near Finchville, leaving two barns destroyed as the powerful rain storm hiding their presences moved rapidly across the county. There were no injuries reported.
But residents both north and south in the county are reporting that they did not hear the sirens. Near Shelby County High School, where a siren is located, residents didn’t hear the siren, and there was conflict among some working at the school about whether or not they did.
In downtown Shelbyville and other areas, there was no question the shrieks were causing a harried reaction among workers and visitors. Persons in other corners said they, too, heard the sirens.
But not everyone could say that and told Mr. Whitman as much – which is very scary.
We don’t know for sure how well the alert system worked, but we do know that more significant monthly testing is required.
We can’t imagine a peak storm season without the emergency alert process working perfectly.
Mr. Whitman is correct when he reminds us that residents are responsible for being aware of potentially dangerous weather, but not everyone is near a media outlet or owns a weather radio.
Not everyone has equal storm preparation footing, and that’s why the sirens, upgraded a few years ago, are imperatives for safety.
We applaud Mr. Whitman’s plan to do more significant and broad-based testing. Though such soundings can be annoying in calm weather, we encourage their regularity and their breadth of coverage. We can tolerate the discomfort.
We want to know without question that our residents are protected, no matter in which corner of the county they reside, and that the system is working fully, as advertised.
We have invested in that safety mechanism, and we expect it to be infallible.
So, today, we are sounding the siren for more testing and retesting.