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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Back to the basement -- Tornado sirens sound in McCook for second night in a row

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The weather vane at Outdoor Sports, top, east of McCook points toward clouds that, buffeted by high winds and heavy with rain Monday evening, seemed deranged and confused, unsure of their direction. Cloud banks -- one straight out of the north, another moving in from the northwest, another coming from the west and yet another from the east -- converged to dump significant amounts of rain in short amounts of time in the Indianola, Bartley and Cambridge areas.
(Connie Jo Discoe/Regional Editor) [Order this photo]
McCOOK, Nebraska -- McCook residents headed for their basements for the second evening in a row, when tornado sirens blasted about 7 p.m. Monday.

Red Willow County Sheriff Gene Mahon said this morning that he ordered that the sirens be sounded because the National Weather Service in Goodland, Kansas, issued a tornado warning for McCook.

The sirens will not always mean that a tornado has definitely been spotted, the sheriff said, but that the city has been placed in a tornado warning area and that residents need to go to their basements.

In the alley behind the 1500 block of Norris Avenue in McCook, screaming tornado sirens brought Nebraska Public Power District bucket-truck crews back to earth, postponing for a bit their repairs to power lines damaged by branches falling in high winds.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
The old rule, Mahon said, was that the sirens sounded if a tornado had been spotted within five miles of the city. However, with improved weather forecasting technology and changing weather patterns, that rule has been abandoned. Sounding the siren when the town is put into a tornado warning allows residents time to take shelter, Mahon said.

However, the sheriff added, if a spotter or one of his officers reports a tornado prior to or without a warning from Goodland, the sirens will sound. "If a tornado's been spotted, I won't wait for Goodland," Mahon said.

Mahon said he often repeats the siren hoping that more residents will hear them. "If people are inside, they may not always hear the sirens," Mahon said. He hopes by repeating the sirens, more people will hear them and know to take appropriate shelter.

Part of the roof of a home on Trail 3 at Harry Strunk Lake northwest of Cambridge, was blown off by the storm. Meanwhile, i(Doug Skiles/McCook Daily Gazette)
There is no "All Clear" signal.

Mahon said that no one reported a tornado Monday evening, although extremely heavy rains in some parts of the county could have obscured a funnel in the air or a tornado on the ground.

"With all the rain, we wouldn't have seen a tornado," Mahon said.

The sheriff said his officers were watching several cloud formations and storm cells. "The storms were switching around so bad," Mahon said. He watched one storm coming from the east and another moving in from the west converge in the Indianola and Bartley areas, and the two communities received "massive amounts of rain. Indianola and Bartley were practically flooded," he said.

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