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Safety concerns with delayed tornado warning sirens in Beech Grove

Posted: 7:59 PM, Jun 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-17 20:09:53-04

MARION CO. — Tornadoes ripped through parts of Beech Grove on Saturday and it wasn't until nearly 40 minutes later — after damage had already been done at Arlo Steel — that the tornado sirens went off in the first place.

The tornado touched down and ripped through an apartment building, Beech Grove High School and a steel warehouse.

LOOK | Photos of Beech Grove High School, Apartments damaged by tornado |

"We were inside watching TV, I got up, I could hear a loud vacuum sound coming through all the vents, my ears popped, and then I heard a loud boom, which we found was the roof getting lifted up and then being slammed down," Brad Stadtmiller, a Beech Grove resident, said.

The National Weather Service says the first tornado; an EF-1 touched down at 7:26 p.m. in Beech Grove.

"We weren't prepared; usually you hear something," Stadtmiller said. "The siren or something."

NWS issued another tornado warning at 7:34 p.m., minutes later, a second tornado, an EF-0 touched down in Beech Grove. A few minutes later, the storm quickly moved out of the area, and NWS canceled the tornado warning just 13 minutes after it was issued saying:

"THE TORNADIC THUNDERSTORM WHICH PROMPTED THE WARNING HAS MOVED OUT OF THE WARNED AREA."

But then, 18 minutes later, the tornado sirens go off throughout Marion County.

"Then, after everything has died down, even the storm, even the rain... we come out, and then the sirens go off telling us to go to safety," a resident said. "We all joked about it and laughed about it, like 'oh thanks for the warning,' but realistically had it been it the worst tornado, people could have gotten really hurt because there was no siren."

All of the sirens in Marion County are managed and operated by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Homeland Security Bureau. They use a computer to set off the sirens. There's four across the county: One at the emergency operation center, one at the police dispatch, one at the fire dispatch and one at the airport. But it's under the authority of the Homeland Security Bureau to give the go-ahead in setting the sirens off.

In a statement to RTV6, IMPD said their emergency operations center, known as an EOC is usually the one responsible.

Because the EOC does not operate 24-hours a day, it is also the responsibility of the Marion County Sheriff's Office Dispatch to activate the sirens. At the time the tornado warning was issued, the duty to activate the sirens was that of MCSO Dispatch.

RTV6 reached out to MCSO for a comment, but have yet to hear back.