CLAYTON — A review of some of the city’s notification systems that helped alert residents of the EF4 tornado on Memorial Day was discussed at the most recent City of Clayton council meeting.
In 2017-2018 the city approved participation in a grant to purchase and install tornado sirens in strategic locations.
“All of our notification systems in the city worked,” said Fire Chief Brian Garver.
The three notification systems include the National Weather Service notification through IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) which is where some of the first notifications came from.
“The local weather stations did a very good job of keeping us informed and actually called out a tornado a couple of minutes before the National Weather Service did,” Garver noted. “I was actually watching Channel 7 when it happened, so they were right on top of that. The IPAWS alert came out about 10:31 p.m. about 25 minutes before we actually knew that a tornado was going through our community. Basically how we knew that was when we got the first call. About five or six minutes before that was probably when the tornado was coming down through Crestway Estates plat.”
Clayton’s Hyper-Reach notification system went out about 10:40 p.m. about eight or nine minutes after the IPAWS alert.
“What you have to understand about all these different notification systems is that they have got to route them, someone has to call it and it takes time for those systems to activate,” Garver said. “Even though our system was behind the federal system, which is typical, it still went out about 10 minutes prior to the tornado going through which is a good thing.”
The third system was the tornado sirens, which activated at approximately 10:45 p.m.
Clayton’s tornado sirens were placed in areas where they would not duplicate coverage of sirens in place in other communities. The tornado sirens that were actually used in this event was one located out by Caterpillar, one by Northmoor Elementary and one in Northview Park.
“Those were the three sirens that people could hear in the affected area of our city and Trotwood and Englewood,” Garver noted. “The one right outside of Caterpillar had the most impact. People from Crestway, people from Moss Creek and up and down Westbrook Road actually heard that siren. Several people that I have talked to said that was the first notification that they received. If you look at some of the houses out in Crestway Estates, one of the first ones that got hit first right off of Crestway, the resident was in his bedroom when he heard the siren go off and went into his basement. He told me that siren saved his life. Kudos to council, because those sirens did save somebody’s life. Our investment was $30,000 for all of the sirens that we put up, so that is a big deal.”
If a tornado warning is issued north of State Route 35 the city’s tornado sirens will activate. The county is divided into quadrants with Clayton located in the northwest quadrant. When reports of other tornados are received the sirens are reinitiated to go off and last three to five minutes and are reinitiated depending on what the track of the tornado is.
“People were in their basements and they could still hear the sirens going off so they didn’t come out of their basements,” Garver said.
He also explained why sirens are tested after a tornado event. While the city does not want to test the sirens within days of a tornado there is a high likelihood of repeat storms taking a similar track, so as soon as it is practical the city needs to make sure the system is functioning. A week and a half after the tornado the sirens were tested to make sure no repairs were needed.
“The impact we had on the city and the way we communicated the emergency worked and it saved lives,” Garver added.
City’s summary of costs associated to tornado (does not include damages suffered by home owners):
• $95,000 Emergency Fund Appropriations
• $31,000 in overtime not included in emergency fund appropriations
• $99,000 in insurance claims for Meadowbrook (not including course damage)
• $381,541 total estimated FEMA submission
Clayton received assistance from many volunteers, some of which registered with the city to help, others that just showed up and starting helping residents clean debris. The quick progress of clean-up efforts would not have been possible without the assistance of:
• Champaign County (mutual aid)
• Butler County (mutual aid)
• Preble County Engineers (mutual aid)
• Centerville and ODOT (mutual aid equipment)
• Plain City
• Valley Interior Systems
• A1 Concrete
• More than 130 volunteers
Approximately 100 traffic signs were lost or heavily damaged by the tornado. The city has replaced about half of those so far.