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Records: Sirens Activated Only After Tornado On Ground

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All that is left of a Genesee County home after a tornado swept through the area. (Credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

All that is left of a Genesee County home after a tornado swept through the area. (Credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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MOUNT MORRIS TWP. (WWJ/AP) - Records show that sirens weren’t activated to notify some Flint-area residents of a tornado earlier this week until after it already was on the ground.

The National Weather Service confirmed that six tornadoes touched down in southeastern Michigan on Tuesday night. No injuries were reported in and around Flint, where the twisters were clustered.

One of the tornadoes touched down north of Flint at 9:01 p.m., but a warning wasn’t issued until 9:06 p.m., The Flint Journal reported. That was two minutes after Genesee County 911 activated sirens in response to the sighting of a funnel cloud by a Mount Morris Township police officer.

Matt Mosteiko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oakland County’s White Lake Township, said smaller tornadoes like the one north of Flint are difficult to predict because they can touch down and finish before they are detected by the weather service’s radar system.

“It takes roughly five minutes to do a complete radar scan,” Mosteiko said.

The tornado lasted five minutes and Mosteiko said a tornado watch wasn’t issued for the area, since widespread severe weather hadn’t been expected. The tornado was from a separate storm formation than other tornadoes confirmed Tuesday in southern Genesee County and in Shiawassee County.

“We paid a little more attention to the main supercell,” Mosteiko said.

Genesee County 911 operates the county’s 83 warning systems for the county’s emergency management department.

Sheriff Robert Pickell, who oversees the emergency management department, said the storm didn’t meet criteria needed to activate sirens prior to being spotted by the officer. They’re activated when the weather service issues a tornado warning, a trained spotter reports a funnel cloud or his department receives other reliable information.

The area hit by the tornado is known as Beecher. It’s the same part of Genesee County hit by one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history on June 8, 1953, that left 116 people dead.

The aftermath of that tornado helped lead to improvements in forecasting and tornado warnings.

“We didn’t hear the siren until it was over,” said Victor McEwen, 70, who survived the 1953 Beecher tornado and whose home suffered minor damage this week. He and his wife went to the basement during the latest tornado.

MORE: Weather Service Confirms 6 Tornadoes In SE Mich.

Storms Produce Tornadoes, Winds Topple Homes

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