Mayor calls for change after tornado sirens silent last week in Lawrence County

Posted at 9:03 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 23:58:56-05

LORETTO, Tenn. (WTVF)  — When two tornadoes touched down last week in Lawrence County, many people were caught off guard because they say no tornado sirens went off.

Clean up efforts continue across the county after an EF-1 tornadoes hit Loretto and Lawrenceburg. The storms knocked down trees, and damaged homes and the Lawrenceburg Public Library.

The Mayor of Loretto said two tornadoes have hit his city in the last 15 months, and tornado sirens weren’t activated in either case.

“It’s a matter of life and death,” said Jesse Turner, Mayor of Loretto. “People need to be warned when a bad storm is coming. This is unacceptable for the residents we serve.”

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Nashville said despite multiple radars in the region, coverage for the southwest part of the state isn’t as strong. This includes Wayne, Lawrence and Giles counties.

“As the radar beam goes away from our radar site, it gets higher and higher,” said Matt Reagan, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Once you get to Loretto, we can’t see below about 6500 feet.”

Reagan said, as a result, storms below 6500 feet in the atmosphere can go undetected. Therefore, warnings can be delayed or not issued at all, and sirens may not sound.

“Down there in Lawrence County, what is going on below 6500 feet is a little bit of a mystery,” said Reagan.

Mayor Turner wants to find a way to solve that mystery. He has started the process of talking with the National Weather Service, Emergency Management officials, Lawrenceburg Mayor Blake Lay, Congressman Mark Green and others to find a way to get funding for a new radar that sufficiently covers the area.

Officials at the National Weather Service estimated that a new radar could cost millions of dollars.

Mayor Turner said he expected it will be a long process to find a solution, but he was committed to finding something that will work.

The National Weather Service recommended people in Lawrence County stay weather alert and always have a severe weather safety plan in place.

“If there is a severe thunderstorm warning, just know that tornadoes can be produced even in severe thunderstorm warnings,” said Reagan. “Go ahead and have a plan ready.”