Outage cripples weather radios in portion of local area


Reporter - Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. - Weather radios are a crucial line of communication during severe storms. But they were not an option for a large part of the Local 6 area during Thursday's weather event.

Technical issues kept radios in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri silent Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service in Paducah said a line had been cut. 

It meant emergency management agencies had to step up their response to the potential for severe weather.

Williamson County EMA Director Steve Land said there's a first for everything. That includes weather radios that aren't functioning.

"It is a rather unusual situation. In ten years I've been here, it's never happened before, weather radios go out," said Land.

Land said once they found out about the glitch they turned to an emergency text messaging service called Nixle. Managers sent out an alert to subscribers in the county, letting them know not to depend on their weather radio Thursday.

Land calls the outage another sign that technology is anything but certain.

"These things do happen. You're dealing with technology, and it's subject to interruption," he said.

Land predicts this situation will be used as a teachable moment in the days and months to come, in order to examine the response of the National Weather Service and local agencies when they have to shift to their backup plans.

Emergency agencies in Franklin and Saline Counties in Illinois also sent text message alerts to their subscribers.

The National Weather Service in Paducah predicted the phone line issue would be repaired by early Thursday evening. Radios in western Kentucky were not affected in the outage.