Howard County residents angered over lack of tornado warning

Published: .
Updated: .

Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News

Howard County - Severe storms and 100 mph winds led to eight confirmed tornadoes and 47 tornado warnings in Indiana Tuesday. But in Howard County, some residents are angry about not getting a tornado warning before a tornado struck.

Dan Wilson's house had significant damage from the storm. The roof and some siding was ripped off by strong winds, and half of his home was destroyed, leaving the remaining half open to the elements.

Wilson said he had no time to react. That was the problem for many of his fellow Howard County residents. No tornado warnings were issued for Howard County by the National Weather Service, and no tornado warnings came from NOAA weather radios.

The tornado did not leave a widespread path of destruction, but it was destructive. There was no warning that it was coming.

"There was no signature of a tornado or anything that we had except for severe thunderstorm, high winds and hail, and damaging winds," said Larry Smith, Howard County EMA director.

The Howard County Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning Tuesday morning. But officials say nothing indicated a tornado in the powerful storm that brought up to 80-mph winds.

"Our warning lead time was about five minutes but when you have 80-mph winds moving over five minutes you're doing the best you can - that's a pretty good lead time for storms moving that fast," said Dan McCarthy, National Weather Service.

But even if a tornado warning had been issued, the city's answer for an early warning system for residents - NOAA weather radios - would not have sounded. Kokomo is one of just two communities in Indiana that lacks tornado sirens. The solution offered this summer was discounted weather radios to residents.

But some residents say those radios never sounded once before Tuesday's storms.

"I got through the scanner, through Channel 13 and WWKI. I could not receive anything on the weather radio," said Beth Martin.

"The weather band, I got static," said Judy Price. "This never alerted for anything. No severe thunderstorm. No tornado, no activity, nothing."

While no one was injured, this latest storm has ignited an old controversy over Kokomo's vulnerability during severe weather and whether a radio is an adequate solution in a city without warning sirens.

A weather spotter saw the tornado and alerted the National Weather Service, which issued the tornado warning, but by then it was too late and the damage was already done.

Residents still want to know why they got static on their weather radios.