Weather warning woes, NWS test 15 minutes late


Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Barry Stevenson

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - Weather warning sounds are loud and abrupt, but they can save your life.

During a statewide test Tuesday, a lot of people were expecting to hear those warnings at 9:07 a.m.  Instead, all they heard was silence.  Then, 15 minutes later, they heard the tones.

This is the second time in two years the system failed during a test.

The National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Rick Shanklin said not one computer, but two computers crashed just seconds before the alert was supposed to go out.

"The software locked up and it took about fifteen minutes or so to get that resolved to actually get it to go out," Shanklin's said.

His team worked quickly to restart the software that crashed and then the backup computer.
Folks in master control at WPSD were waiting for a signal from the N.W.S. so they could run the crawl at the bottom of the screen, but that didn't come until 9:23 A.M.  Emergency managers in counties across Kentucky were waiting too.

"9:07 came and went and we never received the actual tornado warning," Livingston County Emergency Management Director Brent Stringer said he's not that worried by the fifteen minute delay.

"We can't solely depend on one source," Stringer said.

And he doesn't.  He often sounds these alarms before hearing anything from the N.W.S.  He hopes they get their software fixed before the spring tornado season.

Shanklin and his team will now focus on troubleshooting to make sure what happened Tuesday doesn't happen again.

"That's why we do the drill, is to test for things like this," Shanklin said.

Shanklin said this is a great time to test your emergency preparedness plan.  Sit down with your kids, talk about and practice your severe weather plans.

The Missouri tornado drill took place at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.  Officials say that drill was a success.  There's one in Illinois Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m.