County Services, Informational, Safety

Tornado Warnings

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

City staff are fielding some questions from residents about not hearing sirens when they were inside. See below about the outdoor warning system.

If you were signed up for NotifyJoCo, you would have received the tornado warning before the sirens were activated.  When NWS issues a tornado warning, the NotifyJoCo system automatically starts those notifications. 

The National Weather Service released the graphic below late the other night showing the general path of the tornado that impacted Johnson County Wednesday morning. Based on findings from their storm damage survey the NWS determined Johnson County was impacted by an EF-1 Tornado with estimated peak winds of 100mph. The 14-mile track tornado caused primarily minor damage to vegetation, powerlines/poles, and structures in Leawood, Lenexa, Overland Park, and Prairie Village.  Fortunately there were no injuries reported as a result of this tornado. 

As this was the first Tornado Warning in Johnson County in over a year, we’ve received a few questions about notifications and warnings and wanted to provide you with some additional information below.  

Siren Activation:  As tornadic activity was not expected yesterday morning the County EOC was not activated to monitor the weather. Per our procedure for no-notice Tornado Warnings, the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) activated the outdoor warning sirens countywide (all five zones) at 1:25AM in collaboration with the on-call Emergency Management Duty Officer. Initial analysis indicates all sirens activated throughout the county as expected. We have created a Tornado Warning and Siren Activation Map which shows the Tornado Warning polygon in relation to the siren zones.

NotifyJoCo Weather Alerts:  Upon the issuance of the Tornado Warning at 1:21AM NotifyJoCo automatically sent messages to the 15,527 individuals that opted-in to receive tornado warnings and had an address registered within the Tornado Warning polygon. All 42,154 calls, texts, and emails were sent by 1:23AM.  It’s important to us to ensure our systems are working properly and residents are receiving timely and accurate information. It appears the system performed as it was supposed to yesterday, however, we are always eager to investigate/address any specific issues users are having with the system. Please let people know to contact the NotifyJoCo help line at 913-826-5555 or notifyjoco@jocogov.org with any issues or concerns.

We are actively sharing the following preparedness messages with the community:

  • As tornadoes can, and sometimes do, form with little warning it is important to ensure everyone has multiple ways to receive emergent information and to remain weather aware.  
  • Designed as an outdoor warning system, the sirens should not be relied upon to provide sufficient warning indoors or to be the primary mechanism to be alerted of Tornado Warnings. Air conditioning, thunder, wind, rain, and other conditions can cause the sirens not to be heard indoors or outdoors (even if sirens can be heard during tests).  Sirens are also subject to lightning strikes and other equipment malfunction. For these reasons, everyone is encouraged to have multiple ways to receive information about severe weather (such as a weather radio or signing up to receive severe weather notifications with a free NotifyJoCo account at www.notifyjoco.org).
  • NotifyJoCo account holders are encouraged to routinely review and update their contact information and preferences by logging into their account at www.notifyjoco.org.
  • We encourage anyone who has concerns or questions about NotifyJoCo to contact the county at 826-5555 or notifyjoco@jocogov.org

Thank you for reading this. I have shared the NotifyJoCo info here a lot, so hopefully after this scare anyone who hasn’t signed up yet will do so. 🙂

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