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Erroneous tornado warning confuses, alarms MTSU students

Middle Tennessee State University
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 06:33:56-04

Students on campus at MTSU had a rough night after a tornado warning alert awoke students — but there was no such weather in the area.

"It was just mighty hectic and all at once," said Dan Ungrecht.

The students woke up at 3:30 in the morning to the sound of sirens and text message alerts.

"I'm a little tired, but better than I thought I'd be." Lainey Hitt said. "So me and my roommate woke up and went out into the hallway, and that's when they were telling everyone to go down to the basement."

After taking shelter, students learned the school called off the tornado warning.

"First of all, I was quite mad that I had to wake up this early, but I was relieved that nothing got hurt, nothing got damaged," said Ungrecht. "But yeah, for the most part quite mad that I had to wake up at six o'clock this morning."

In a statement, MTSU officials said the school contracts with a private weather forecasting company called AccuWeather. The university said this contract allows for more precise monitoring of the 515-acre campus.

"I think a lot of universities, businesses, corporations — they have specific needs as far as weather forecasting and specific needs that the National Weather Service really doesn't have the time to provide, specialized forecasts for these entities," said Krissy Hurley, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the NWS Nashville.

But it's worth pointing out that only the National Weather Service can issue an official tornado warning. Other private agencies can alert residents to inclement weather in the area, but the only agency authorized to issue an official weather warning is the National Weather Service.

Hurley said a private weather company can issue their own alerts, warnings and advisories though, for a specific entity and organization.

"This is why we stress: have multiple ways to get weather information, especially in the middle of the night," said Hurley. "Make sure it's a reliable, trusted source."

While most students were understanding about what happened, they still could use some more sleep.

"I'm not bashing them because, I mean, if there was to be one then they were getting everybody to safety, so they're doing a good job," Ungrecht said.

MTSU and AccuWeather issued the following statement on the early morning tornado warning.

MTSU STATEMENT ON JUNE 7 TORNADO WARNING

As part of our efforts to assure the safety of our campus community, MTSU contracts with a private weather forecasting vendor, AccuWeather, that allows for more precise monitoring of our 515-acre campus, in addition to monitoring the alerts from the National Weather Service. At 3:34 a.m. Tuesday, AccuWeather detected a rapidly rotating severe thunderstorm approaching MTSU. Based on this alert, MTSU issued a campus tornado warning through our emergency alert system so our residential population would take appropriate safety precautions. A follow-up alert was sent at approximately 4 a.m. canceling the warning since the threat was deemed to have passed.

ACCUWEATHER STATEMENT ON JUNE 7 TORNADO WARNING

Early Tuesday morning, AccuWeather storm warning meteorologists were closely tracking a cluster of thunderstorms across Middle Tennessee. AccuWeather meteorologists were aware that some favorable atmospheric conditions were in place across parts of Tennessee that could result in the development of dangerous, localized tornadoes. This same threat had been identified by the government’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in a bulletin that it issued on Monday evening describing the risk for a localized tornado in this region through the overnight hours on Monday into early Tuesday morning.

A particular thunderstorm intensifying to the west of the Murfreesboro area began to show increased rotation within the storm and other signs that it could quickly produce a tornado as it moved to the east toward Murfreesboro and the campus.

Based on the predefined criteria AccuWeather established in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University — and especially concerned with preserving life and preventing injuries from fast spin-up tornadoes — AccuWeather meteorologists issued a tornado warning for the campus at 3:34 a.m. local time and Middle Tennessee State University issued a warning to its campus community. Given the concentration of people at a university and the fact that most people would be sleeping at this time of the night, the safety of people on campus is paramount and we wanted to be sure people had enough time to shelter safely. Once the threat had passed, the university canceled the warning.

AccuWeather partners with dozens of universities all over the country and has worked with Middle Tennessee State University for more than 10 years. AccuWeather’s site-specific warnings provide enhanced safety and situational awareness, and they are customized to the location and unique needs of the university.