Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

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Old 12-20-2007, 02:53 PM
JohnM JohnM is offline
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Default Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

Weather-service error reduced storm warnings
Sandra Pedicini
Sentinel Staff Writer
December 19, 2007
Human error prevented many people in Central Florida from getting tornado-warning alerts on their weather radios during a storm Sunday, a National Weather Service spokesman said Tuesday.

A National Weather Service employee turned down power to an Orlando transmitter for testing Thursday and forgot to turn it back up. That resulted in sporadic signal coverage from the transmitter.

The problem was corrected Tuesday morning, said Dennis Decker, a warning-coordinator meteorologist with NWS.

The weather agency's Melbourne office sent information about the incident to its regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, "to come up with procedures to make sure we don't do this again," Decker said.

Officials did not know how many people were without signals on their weather radios since Thursday as a result of the goof.

It resulted in a patchwork of coverage, meaning that one person would not get a signal, but their neighbor would.

The mistake came to light after a fast-moving storm formed early Sunday from the remnants of Tropical Storm Olga in the Gulf of Mexico. Tornado warnings were issued for parts of Seminole, Lake and Volusia counties.

The damage was less than expected -- primarily downed trees and power outages -- and no injuries were reported.

Signals didn't play favorites

In Oviedo, the fire chief was among about a dozen people who reported not getting a warning on a weather radio. Lake County's emergency management also notified the National Weather Service after the storm that it had heard similar reports.

National Weather Service officials at first theorized that atmospheric conditions may have interfered with signals. The conditions just before sunrise are most likely to interfere with transmissions, Decker said.

But after more investigation, officials determined that the transmitter was not working correctly.

"I don't feel that safe now, knowing that we weren't warned," said Rose Spychalski, a resident of the Royal Harbor community in Tavares.

A retiree from New Jersey, she bought weather radios after moving to Florida because she was worried about hurricanes. Her two radios seemed to work fine until Sunday morning, when they did not sound any alarms.

Some people thought they hadn't programmed their radios correctly or that the devices had malfunctioned. Gerald Reddan of Leesburg brought his radio back to the store where he had bought it, and exchanged it for a new one.

It's not the first time residents were let down by their weather radios.

When tornadoes hit Lake County on Feb. 2, many radios failed to warn residents of The Villages, where more than 1,000 homes were destroyed. Twenty-one people were killed in Lady Lake and Lake Mack that day.

A new transmitter was put up in Sumterville to remedy the community's spotty coverage.

Another time last year, some weather radios in Central Florida did not get signals during a tornado watch because of a phone-line problem.

Warnings 'a No. 1 priority'

Still, Decker said weather radios that transmit warnings from his agency remain a good source of information and protection.

"Issuing warnings is a No. 1 priority in this office," he said. "We're here 24-7, 365 days a year, and we take all the measures we can to make sure the system works well because lives depend on it." When problems occur, Decker said, "you go back, you evaluate it, you find some way to correct it. You keep pressing on for a better system."

Sandra Pedicini can be reached at spedicini@orlandosentinel.com or 407-322-7669.
Old 12-20-2007, 07:41 PM
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SteveFromNY SteveFromNY is offline
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

All that technology, and it just takes one guy to screw it up.

It's good that it wasn't a serious event like last February or it could have cost lives. I hope their procedure has a few checks and balances in it!
Old 12-20-2007, 10:09 PM
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

We were out of town the night of the warnings but our son was here at our house in TV. He said our weather radio gave warnings during the night.
Old 12-21-2007, 02:12 AM
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

i don't care if its a small business , large corperation or the federal government , there's always some clown that doesn't get the memo............
our tax dollars at work............
My memory's not as sharp as it used to be, Also
my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.
Old 12-21-2007, 01:32 PM
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

Tsunami warning next ????????? Geeesh !
Old 12-24-2007, 03:52 PM
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

Lake County ready for severe storms, emergency officials say
Emergency managers are urging Lake residents to purchase and program weather radios.
Katie Fretland

Sentinel Staff Writer

December 24, 2007


Last year on Christmas Day, a tornado ripped through north Lake County, tearing the tops off of mobile homes and hacking trees in half.

No one was hurt, but the storm foreshadowed deadly twisters that would come a little more than a month later. Then in September, a historic neighborhood in Eustis was ravaged by another tornado. No one was killed in that concentrated but powerful storm.

Few can question whether Lake County had enough experience in dealing with severe weather during the past year. During the Christmas Day storm alone, about 40 homes and 15 businesses were damaged. The storm also hit Volusia County, where more homes were destroyed.

After a year like this one, emergency-management officials say, Lake is prepared for the next severe storm, and they encouraged residents to buy and properly program weather radios.

"Lake County is very well saturated [for weather-radio coverage]," said Tommy Carpenter, the county's emergency-management-operations manager.

Carpenter's assurances came after problems with weather radios around the county made news twice in 2007. As recently as the morning of Dec. 16, residents experienced problems with their weather radios as fast-moving storms rolled through the area. Residents had similar troubles with the radios during the deadly February storms.

Weather radios in The Villages retirement community failed to sound during the early morning of Feb. 2, when tornadoes tore through the county and ultimately killed 21 people. In July, county officials unveiled a new tower in Sumterville to cover gaps in transmission coverage.

Early on Dec. 16, weather radios again failed to alert some residents of a tornado warning when a storm passed by. The storm caused no reported injuries and little damage.

This time, the National Weather Service said the problem with the radios was human error during testing of the Orlando transmitter. An employee turned down the power and forgot to turn it back up. Dennis Decker, a NWS warning-coordinator meteorologist, said the tower is now functioning correctly.

Three towers serve Lake, and emergency-management officials say residents should tune their radios to the strongest signals they receive at home. The Orlando transmitter covers Eustis, Mount Dora and Tavares. In South Lake, the best signal will come from Orlando or Sumterville. The Daytona Beach and Orlando transmitters cover the Umatilla and Altoona areas. In Leesburg, Lady Lake and the Villages, the Sumterville tower is probably best.

These are the frequencies for the respective towers: Orlando -- 162.475; Daytona Beach -- 162.400; and Sumterville -- 162.500.

Radios are available for purchase online and at local stores.

Residents who are having trouble programming their radios can call the Lake County Emergency Management Division or bring the radio to the division's office in Tavares. Residents who cannot bring their radios in can request an emergency manager to come to their home.

For more information on your weather radio, call the Lake County Emergency Management Division at 352-343-9420 or visit lakecountyfl.gov/ departments/public_safety/ emergency_management

"With hurricanes, you get notice. They let you know ahead that they're coming," Carpenter said. "With tornadoes, they don't. We need to make sure we are prepared with NOAA weather radios and a plan as individuals and families."

Katie Fretland can be reached at kfretland@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5934.

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