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Monday, November 24, 2014

Tornado Warning Response



 Pacific County Emergency Management Agency
After Action Report
Severe Thunderstorm and Subsequent Tornado Warning
November 23, 2014 8:52-10:15 a.m.

Summary

On Sunday November 23rd at 8:52 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement warning of a strong thunderstorm over the Long Beach Peninsula and the Northern Oregon Coast. This statement was followed by a Tornado Warning from the National Weather Service at 9:01 am. The area under warning included The City of Long Beach, Seaview, and the City of Ilwaco. Immediately upon receipt of the warning PCEMA/PACCOM Director Stephanie Fritts contacted Pacific County Dispatch to confirm that they had received the information and to confirm the accuracy of the information. She then had Pacific County Dispatch broadcast the information to all on duty law enforcement personnel and tone-alert and broadcast to all on and off-duty fire and EMS personnel and stations.  Sheriff Johnson was also notified. At 9:02 a.m., PCEMA Deputy Director Scott McDougall made contact with Director Fritts and was assigned the task of posting the warning to Social Media.  At 9:05 a.m. a pre-planned, automatic telephone and email warning was sent via the county’s emergency notification system to all residents in the immediate warning boundaries (see attached maps). 760 of 762 messages were successfully delivered.  The Facebook posting of this event was also quickly viewed by 900 individuals.

At 9:22 a.m. a second Tornado Warning was issued for the Naselle area, and the warning for the Long Beach area was allowed to expire at 9:30 a.m. Deputy Director McDougall was in the South Bend EOC at 9:24 a.m. and in communication with Director Fritts.  At 9:35 a.m., a pre-planned emergency notification campaign was initiated in the Naselle area, and 56 of 58 messages were successfully delivered.  At 9:40 a.m., PACCOM was informed that the thunderstorm that had prompted the warning had weakened and moved out of the area and would be allowed to expire at 9:45.  That information was immediately broadcast by PACCOM to all of law enforcement and fire and EMS agencies.

The severe thunderstorm that passed through the area, did not generate a tornado.  There were reports of very large hail in the Naselle area, and at this time there has been no reported damage as a result of this event.

Strengths

1.     Response from PCEMA and PACCOM was immediate and information was disseminated quickly and efficiently.  Messaging about the event was received on a broad scale.
2.     Excellent Communication between the Director and Deputy Director of PCEMA, as well as between the Director and PACCOM staff.  Although it proved unnecessary the EOC was staffed and ready to begin standing up in less than 30 minutes.
3.     The preplanned messages from Hyper-Reach worked well, and the public received notifications on many redundant levels.
4.     NOAA Weather Radios proved to be an excellent mechanism for indoor resident notification. 


Opportunities for Improvement

1.     Pacific County will have the capability of activating AHAB Sirens locally by the end of February. Discussion is needed to determine the best use of those sirens during short-notice events. Should they be used only in the affected areas or should all county sirens be activated?
2.     A policy should be developed for Emergency Alert System Broadcasts. Are those best issued by local authorities when the window of opportunity is so small?
3.     Hazard Awareness improvements should be made. The “normal” hazards are not the only hazards that the county faces. Preparedness needs to All Hazard based, Tornado warnings are unusual, but preparedness must run the gamut.

In order to address the opportunities for improvement PCEMA will be improving and developing procedures so that the items identified can be addressed. It is important to emphasize that the overall event went well and that the After Action items are opportunities to further enhance safety for the residents of Pacific County.

Chronology of Events

8:52           NWS Special Weather Statement regarding a strong thunderstorm over the Long Beach Peninsula.
8:55           Facebook post by Stephanie Fritts regarding the thunderstorm.
9:01           NWS Tornado Warning due to a severe thunderstorm, areas within the warning include Long Beach, Seaview and Ilwaco warning expires at 09:30. Information confirmed by Stephanie Fritts via PACCOM.
9:02           Phone call by Scott McDougall to Stephanie Fritts for instructions.
9:04           On Duty Law Enforcement personnel notified by radio broadcast.
9:05           Hyper-Reach Notification Campaign begins for Long Beach Peninsula within the warning boundaries. Message was successfully delivered to 760 of 762 destinations.
9:07           Fire and EMS agencies notified by tone alert and broadcast.
9:07           Facebook post by Scott McDougall regarding the tornado warning
9:22           NWS Tornado Warning due to a severe thunderstorm, areas within the warning include Naselle and SR 4 as well as Wahkiakum County. Warning expires at 09:45
9:24          Scott McDougall in the Pacific County EOC, ready to stand up EOC if situation warrants.
9:26          Sheriff Johnson in the car, Ditches on both sides of SR 4 full, but not over the road. Very large hail that was physically painful to be exposed to.
9:35           Hyper-Reach Notification Campaign begins for Naselle. Message was successfully delivered to 56 of 58 destinations.
9:40           NWS Statement indicates the storm had weakened and moved out of the area.
9:41           Information regarding the storm weakening and moving out of the area broacast to Fire/EMS/Law by PACCOM.
9:48           Message that the Tornado Warning was allowed to expire, posted to Facebook by Scott McDougall
9:50           Continued event monitoring and communications between Stephanie Fritts and Scott McDougall as well as Sheriff Johnson
10:15         Scott McDougall out of the EOC.


Long Beach and Ilwaco Notification Calling Area:




Naselle Notification Calling Area:









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