Neighbors question tornado warning system after delayed alert

Typically, when there is a real threat of a tornado in any given area, emergency personnel set off the alert sirens.

While those sirens were heard in many mid-Michigan communities Tuesday night, some residents are now questioning the timing.

Sirens went off after the tornado was already on the ground in Mount Morris Township.

Debbie Terryiah knows a thing or two about tornadoes.

â??It was back when the tornado hit the Target store back here,â?? says Terriyah.

That was back in 2007 when an E-F 2 tornado ripped through Fenton.

Back then, Terriyah got a heads up because the city of Fenton has its own siren system, independent of Genesee County.

â??Itâ??s definitely a plus if sirens go off before a tornado touches down,â?? says Terriyah.

Thatâ??s what supposed to happen in the rest of Genesee County if the conditions call for an alarm but there are additional factors for the lack of warning Tuesday.

â??The National Weather Service did not issue a tornado warning and so the sirens went off after the tornado touched down,â?? says Robert Pickell, sheriff of Genesee County.

Luckily, people escaped from the tornadoes unharmed. Up in Saginaw County, central dispatch controls the sirens.

â??We set off the sirens in all of Saginaw County,â?? says Tom McIntyre. â??They're activated from our center,â?? he adds.

Central Dispatch takes cues from the National Weather Service as well but sometimes McIntyreâ??s office doesn't wait.

Last year, we had something that popped up that turned into that (severe weather) but it wasn't spotted by the weather people or The National Weather Service until it actually comes through,â?? says McIntyre. â??These things happened sometimes so quickly,â?? adds McIntyre.

Thatâ??s why Debbie wants the alarms to go off sooner.

â??If everybody was on one system and we had enough time, it would definitely be a plus,â?? says Terriyah.

Fenton officials have no plans to change their system but Sheriff Pickell says he's taking a closer for the county.

â??Iâ??m concerned, Iâ??m concerned about it,â?? says Terriyah.

Sheriff Pickell points out that no one was hurt during Tuesdayâ??s tornadoes. About 131 structures were damaged; six structures were destroyed across the county.

The total damage is estimated about $2.5 million.