Lack of official warning hampered activation of tornado sirens - WNEM TV 5

Lack of official warning hampered activation of tornado sirens

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OWENDALE, MI (WNEM) -

"Dear God, let me get home to my wife and kids."

That was what ran through Ben Smith's head when he saw an EF-1 tornado, bearing down on the town of Owendale.

He said the twister came within 100 yards of his truck.

"As I'm entering town, I'm noticing the heavy rain and everything. And the tornado funnel, actually touching the ground in front of my truck,” Smith said.

Smith is particularly concerned with why no tornado sirens alerted citizens that a twister was on its way.

Huron County Emergency Services director Randy Miller said there was no official tornado warning from the National Weather Service. That likely hampered the notification process.

"We had no prior indication," Miller said.

Officials said the tornado sirens never went off because by the time the damage had happened, the tornado was already off the ground.

"It had actually hit our county so quickly, it was here and it was gone," Miller said.

Miller said by the time citizens called in their reports, the tornado was gone.

A National Weather Service spokesman said this particular kind of tornado is hard to predict as it was out ahead of a line of storms, and was moving at a rate of nearly 75 miles per hour.

Nonetheless, the Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm warning was issued, which warned of the possibility of a tornado.

"Had we been aware there was a funnel cloud, or a warning, we could have activated the sirens from the dispatch center, and they would have gone off here in town," Miller said.

For Smith, the experience was surreal.

"It's definitely something to open your eyes to," Smith said.

He just hopes there's more warning next time a tornado heads his way.

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