EMA investigates tornado siren issues in Licking County, Ohio

NEWARK, OH (WCMH) — Alerts for tornado warnings went off across our viewing area Sunday evening setting off cell phones and caused sirens to wail.

The National Weather Service showed a line of severe storms ripping through Madison, Franklin and Licking Counties and the alerts warned people to take shelter. But in Licking County some sirens did not sound, while the director of the local EMA said others should not have gone off, but did anyway.

He said Licking County’s tornado sirens are set off according to the National Weather Service’s polygon or path of the storm, but conflicting reports of what area was under a tornado warning caused the Licking County 911 Center to set them off throughout the county.

“There was some confusion on our end because one of the TV stations actually had all of Licking County showing up in the warning box,” said Sean Grady, Licking County EMA Director.

He said this made officials in the 911 Center question whether to follow NWS or the station.

“911 made the decision to manually trigger for all county sirens,” Grady said.

He said they got nearly two dozen calls from folks also confused, questioning why some sirens did or did not go off.

Judy Dixson and her husband have lived in Homer in Northern Licking County for more than 50 years. Within 300 yards of the local tornado siren

“We were watching TV, we had filmed something so we were not on regular TV, when my husband’s cellphone went blaring you know they had an alert, but the sirens down here at the firehouse never went off,” she said. She said the sirens are very important because many people do not have cell phones, pagers or email.

Grady said in the future they will look at all three television stations before determining which sirens they will activate.

Contractors are examining the tornado siren in Homer along with two others in the City of Newark which Grady said did not sound. One is across from the downtown county courthouse and the other is at 6th and West Main Streets. Grady said maintenance and repair of all tornado sirens are the responsibility of the municipality where they are erected. There are more than 50 sirens spread out throughout the county.

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