NWS Explains Why Warren County Residents Had No Advanced Warning of Tornado

Mar 4, 2020

Warren County has 33 sirens that make up the Community Outdoor Warning System, or COWS.
Credit Warren County Emergency Management

The area of southern Warren County where a tornado touched down early Tuesday morning was never put under a tornado warning. 

The agency charged with issuing such warnings failed to do so, which meant no sirens were activated.

Warren County has 33 sirens that make up the Community Outdoor Warning System, or COWS.  The siren in Alvaton didn’t activate before an EF-2 tornado struck just after midnight when most people were sleeping. 

The sirens are programmed to activate for tornado warnings which are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Louisville.  However, NOAA failed to place Alvaton under a warning.

“It slipped through the cracks at NOAA, so therefore, when there’s no activation warning from their end, the community outdoor sirens do not activate," said Ronnie Pearson, director of Warren County Emergency Management.

Pearson encourages every household to have a weather radio and cell phone apps that send out alerts about severe weather, but like outdoor warning sirens, they’re only good if NOAA issues a warning in the first place. 

NOAA is within the National Weather Service office in Louisville.  Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joe Sullivan issued a statement saying conditions over south-central Kentucky were less favorable for tornadoes, but storm projections did support large hail and possibly a few strong to severe wind gusts. 

"The storm that produced the tornado was not of the same type (supercell) that produced the tornadoes that night in Tennessee or near Crofton in northern Christian County, KY," explained Sullivan. "This tornado was the result of the intersection of storms moving in two different - nearly perpendicular - directions.  While the intersection of storm boundaries is not entirely uncommon, only rarely do they produce tornadoes."   

The statement goes on to say the National Weather Service is reviewing the case to determine what it can do to improve future warnings.