KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A majority of Joplin, Mo., residents
either ignored or were slow to react to the first warning sirens
about a massive and deadly tornado this spring, partially because
of decades of false alarms, the government said Tuesday.
In assessing the communications and warning systems used in the storm that killed 162 people, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said many people waited for additional information.
"The majority of surveyed Joplin residents did not immediately
go to shelter upon hearing the initial warning," the report
"Instead, the majority of Joplin residents did not take
protective action until processing additional credible confirmation
of the threat and its magnitude from a non-routine, extraordinary
While it's clear that officials believe residents didn't respond
quickly enough to sirens and warning systems, it wasn't immediately
apparent from the report whether NOAA believes the delayed response cost lives. Another key finding was that after the intensity of the storm was clear, the resulting warnings "lacked enhanced wording to accurately portray that immediate action was necessary to save lives with this tornado."
The National Weather Service was well-prepared and "performed
in an exemplary manner" during the storm, NOAA said, adding that
combined efforts from the weather service, emergency management and the public "saved many lives."
But the report said "the vast majority of Joplin residents"
didn't respond to the first siren because of an apparent widespread
disregard for tornado sirens.
"Relationships between false alarms, public complacency, and
warning credibility are highly complex," the report stated.
A team from the NWS examined warning and forecast services
before the EF-5 tornado cut through the southwest Missouri city of
about 50,000 residents and reduced much of the city's southern half
Cleanup, recovery and rebuilding continues in Joplin. Four
schools were destroyed and six other district buildings were
damaged. Entire neighborhoods were leveled, as was much of the
city's main commercial district.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)