Copperas Cove: Some residents say Code Red tornado alert came too late

COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) Some Copperas Cove residents are sounding the alarm saying they didn’t get the proper notifications through the city’s Code Red emergency alert system before an EF-2 tornado hit the area Sunday, but city officials say there was no delay in getting the word out.

The EF-2 tornado left a trail of damage Sunday. (Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

The city uses the Code Red system to notify residents of a variety emergencies including not only severe weather, but also boil orders and criminal activity through texts, phone calls or email.

But some residents are saying they only got the alert after the tornado had already swept through.

The Copperas Cove Fire Department manages some warnings on the system, but severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service are sent out automatically.

“That's one of the reasons why that system was chosen,” Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young said.

“We don't have to rely upon a human to make a determination to send an alert.”

A severe thunderstorm warning was sent over the system at 4:43 p.m. Sunday.

“There was no forecast for tornadoes,” Young said.

“There was a forecast for bad weather.”

At 5:28 p.m. a spotter confirmed the tornado touchdown.

Five minutes later the NWS issued a tornado warning and alerts were sent out instantly.

“Unfortunately, based on the information that we have gathered, that storm was already impacting that neighborhood,” Young said.

“With the technology, the education, the knowledge and experience at the National Weather Service, they had no idea that this tornado was going to pop up.”

On the ground for four minutes and traveling a mile and a half, the storm also shared a feature with other twisters.

“In many instances tornadoes will occur and then dissipate- sometimes before a tornado warning is issued,” Young said.

It would have been an even longer delay to activate an outdoor siren which some residents were calling for online.

But outdoor sirens are not made to be heard by people indoors and it’s not immediately clear why they’re sounding.

Instead, emergency officials want residents to make sure they are getting alerts from more than one source.

“Make a plan, be prepared, and be ready,” Young said.

“And if you feel like your life is in jeopardy, take the appropriate steps and measures to protect your life, and don't wait for somebody to come and confirm for you that yes, it's bad.”

The system doesn't work off of GPS, so residents should update addresses if they’ve moved.

Young also suggest that residents choose a specific ring tone for Code Red numbers so they know when an emergency alert has been sent.

Residents who are having trouble signing up for the alerts may call the fire department, which will in put the information for them.