Tornado warning too late for use of sirens


A brief tornado warning issued by Environment Canada on Monday evening was too late to warrant use of the emergency sirens in Fort Frances.
“It was about nine o’clock that it was issued, but at the point it was issued . . . the storm cell was past us,” Fire Chief Frank Sheppard noted yesterday.
“So it wasn’t much value at that point.
“What we were doing up to that point, because we weren’t getting any indicators from either Ontario or Minnesota that there was an issue, we got out the plan,” Chief Sheppard added.
“We didn’t do any notifications,” he said, explaining until the actual warning is issued, that’s when the sirens are sounded.
“We were watching the Doppler radar, and weren’t finding any indicators that would have suggested that we should do that [activate the sirens] without some clarity from Environment Canada,” Chief Sheppard continued.
“We watch both the Canadian and U.S. side because sometimes we get better information out of Koochiching [County], but they hadn’t issued anything, either.”
Chief Sheppard reiterated the strong winds, lightning, and heavy rain already had passed over town by the time the tornado warning was issued.
“I do have a few questions for Environment Canada because if that’s the case, it’s not really that helpful,” he remarked.
“We may have to evaluate how we’re addressing the issues, as well,” he conceded.
“But there’s no point in crying wolf too often,” he stressed. “If we don’t have the data and information, there’s only so much you can do.”
Summer often is a stormy season here, and it’s possible more serious storm warnings may be issued in the coming weeks.
Chief Sheppard said the fire hall has dual warning devices that will trigger if there’s weather alerts, such as a severe thunderstorm warning, a tornado watch, or tornado warning.
“Under the ‘watch’ levels and under the thunderstorm levels, all we do is monitor weather conditions,” he explained.
“If it actually goes to a point where a tornado warning is issued, the normal protocol would be that we activate the sirens and notify the folks on the radio systems,” he noted, adding the latter would broadcast emergency information to the community.
“The advice that’s given at that point is to look for shelter, stay away from windows, go into your basement area [if you have one], and stay low as much as you can.”
Chief Sheppard recalled the last time the sirens were activated here due to severe weather was about four or five years ago.