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Tornado sirens didn’t sound Saturday, forecasters say storm was too fast-moving

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INDIANAPOLIS (June 1, 2015) – Homeowners and forecasters on the southeast side of Indianapolis received little-to-no warning Saturday night as an EF-1 tornado touched down.

“Oh fast,” Beverley Smith said, a resident describing the storm. “Very fast. Very fast.”

The area was under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning Saturday night when the tornado hit and wind speeds peaked at 90 mph.

“I heard it come,” Bob Johnson said, a resident. “I knew what it was. I slammed the garage door down.”

Mike Ryan, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said when the quick-moving storm hit, indications of a tornado threat, like rotations or wall cloud sightings weren’t there, meaning the NWS didn’t issue a warning and the tornado sirens didn’t sound.

“We did eventually have a brief spin up rotation,” Ryan said. “But again it came up really fast and I think you had that local intersection that enhanced the different wind direction and the flow against each other.”

Gary Coons, chief of the Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security, said Monday all the sirens in that area are functional.

“We have the ability to set them off 24/7,” he said. “It’s just we have to have those indications.”

Ryan said it appears two weather boundaries briefly collided, causing the tornado touchdown for a minute or less, tracking about a third of a mile long and 40 yards wide.

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned,” Coons said. “A severe thunderstorm warning could produce freak incidents like this.”

Emergency responders said Saturday’s storm is warning for Hoosiers as summer beings – that if a tornado warning isn’t issue, it doesn’t mean a tornado can’t touch down.

“Severe weather here in Indiana can happen any time of the year,” Ryan said. “And it can happen a couple different ways.”