Warnings expired before tornado hit

Published 11:35 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

When a Wednesday morning tornado touched down in east Demopolis it caught many business owners and commuters by surprise.

Weather forecasters called for that particular cell to pass just north of Demopolis. It didn’t.

“I think it caught a lot of people off guard a little,” said Demopolis Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Carl Johnson. “I’d been tracking that cell since it was in Mississippi, since about 2 a.m. that morning but that doesn’t mean I saw what we got coming.”

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Marengo County Emergency Management Director Kevin McKinney said it would appear not all of the city’s three weather sirens went off as planned.

Johnson, who said his department didn’t hear the alarm at Fire Station No. 3 – a fraction of a mile from on of the sirens agreed.

“We didn’t hear it,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it didn’t go off.”

McKinney said he’s heard from people who claim to have heard it and others who claim they didn’t, but in any event they may not have been of much help.

“The tornado warning had actually expired when the tornado hit,” he said. “It’s possible that they had gone off, but they wouldn’t still be going off with the warning expired.”

McKinney said the sirens are controlled by radio frequency and that, if there was a glitch, heavy cloud cover could have caused it.

“They’re all set off by a radio frequency,” he said. “There easily could have been some interference.”

The National Weather Service Thursday classified the tornado as a small EF1.