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Memo: policy violated when tornado sirens weren't sounded

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  An internal sheriff’s department memo said authorities violated Outagamie County policies by not sounding warning sirens as tornadoes hit early on August 7th.

Appleton Post-Crescent Media reported during the weekend about problems with the county’s response to five tornadoes. The storms caused $31-million in damage in Outagamie County. Public Safety Committee chairman James Duncan released a memo from sheriff’s captain Mike Jobe. It said a severe thunderstorm warning at 12:30 a-m should have triggered the sirens, along with damage reports from a twister in Hortonville just one minute later.

On Friday the committee recommended that County Executive Tom Nelson reprimand Emergency Management Director Julie Loeffelholz. The panel also said the sheriff should tell his dispatchers to sound the sirens if all conditions are met, without waiting for emergency management approval. Nelson said he won’t give out any punishments until giving Loeffelholz a chance to tell her side of the story. He says he wants to avoid a rush to judgment.

Some local officials and the National Weather Service said people should not rely on sirens as their only warning, because they’re meant to alert people outside – not folks sleeping in their homes. They suggest that people get weather radios. Duncan says that’s fine, but the county panel is only looking at its own policies on activating the sirens.