University Police stand behind strong reaction to tornado threat

By Erin Egan
Staff writer

Despite multiple uses of the campus emergency siren and several university text messages saying a tornado was “forecast to strike the campus,” University Police said there have been no reports of a tornado touching down in College Park tonight and that there were no reported injuries or incidents related to the storm.

ABC7 is reporting the university “mistakenly” warned students of a tornado, but University Police spokesman Capt. Marc Limansky stood by the multiple alerts sent to students.

The University Alert System sent out several text message and email alerts instructing students to, “seek shelter immediately,” despite the lack of tornado warnings for the area from the National Weather Service. There was a “tornado watch” issued for Prince George’s County, which means that conditions are favorable for a tornado but excludes conditions in which tornadoes have actually been detected.

“We use a different system,” Limansky said, adding that University Police use the AccuWeather data service, which alerts officials about bad weather and remains in contact throughout the storm. “If you were looking at a map and talking to this guy, you would have done the same thing … They’re consistent, when they say a storm is coming in 16 minutes, it will come in 16 minutes.”

The University Police adapted the warning systems after the Sept. 2001 tornado that took the lives of two university students and tore through the campus. The new system, he said, is to prevent danger in extreme weather conditions. Limansky added that police do not think using multiple warnings was extreme.

“We can never be too excessive in that respect,” he said. “If we had not acted on it, and a tornado came, and someone died, well, we’re not willing to take that chance.”

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One comment on “University Police stand behind strong reaction to tornado threat

  1. Beth Avery says:

    Seriously… Campus police said…”We use a different system.”

    The National Weather service monitors this stuff. They can see a hook echo in the radar (likely) if there’s a tornado. They have trained weather spotters and personnel. If a funnel is spotted, or a hook echo shows up on the radar, you’d better believe they’re going to issue a warning.

    A ‘Tornado Warning’ has a specific definition; And by definition is an alert issued by government weather services to warn that severe thunderstorms with tornadoes may be imminent. By the government. Not because some campus security guard was watching the news and saw the weather looking pretty bad.

    If the school issues a ‘Tornado Warning’, I think most folks would be under the assumption that the Warning was raised because of the specified criteria, and determined by the NWS.

    Deciding to make up your own ‘Warning’ when in fact there was only an official ‘Tornado Watch’ in that area only confuses people and leads to misinformation. Next time the campus wants to issue their own ‘Warning’, it won’t be taken seriously.

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