Michigan lawmakers demand answers about why June 5 Livonia tornado didn't trigger warning

TORNADO DAMAGE LIVONIA
Posted at 6:07 PM, Jul 02, 2024

LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — Michigan lawmakers are asking National Weather Service officials for answers after sirens did not go off, warning homeowners of an incoming tornado in June.

Nearly a month after the EF-1 tornado hit Livonia, clean-up efforts are still underway. Tuesday crews spent the afternoon cutting down trees and replacing shingles on a damaged roof.

A brunt of the damage happened on Houghton St. in a neighborhood just off of Newburgh Rd. and I-96. The storm knocked down multiple trees and power lines. One of the trees landed on a family's home resulting in the death of a 3-year-old boy. It also injured his mother.

RELATED STORY: After Livonia tornado, families and neighbors band together for cleanup effort

After Livonia tornado, families and neighbors band together for clean-up effort

Neighbors say the memories of the June 5th storm are still fresh.

"It looked like a war zone. As I was coming in, it actually took me a while to get to my home which is just around the block," said Dave Garbarino who lives in the area. "The home across the street, he had three major trees, big trees come down, take out the play set and everything else and just missed his house."

DAVE GARBARINO, LIVONIA.png

"I just assumed power outage. I did not think, of course tornado, right away so my first thought was is my house even still there," said Samantha Lewis who also lives in the neighborhood. "I had left like three minutes before it actually hit and was driving up Newburgh because I had a Costco date with my mom and just seeing the trees over by Madonna just swaying."

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Kristin Selwa says she and her 7-year-old ran to their basement when they heard transformers blow that afternoon. 

"It was very quick. It was raining but nothing that would’ve indicated what was going to happen, happened," said Selwa. "I went out my back door and it looked fine but then you came out the front and it was just devastating out here. It really was."

KRISTIN SELWA, LIVONIA 2

Before the storm, no sirens sounded off alerting families of the incoming storm. Lawmakers are now raising questions about the current alert systems and their effectiveness in rapidly developing situations.

RELATED VIDEO: Livonia residents: Why were there no sirens to warn of tornado? NWS explains why

Livonia residents: Why were there no sirens to warn of tornado? NWS explains why

"My wife told me that there was absolutely no warning whatsoever. I had just talked to her on the phone and where I was it looked like this," Garbarino said as he referenced the sunny weather Tuesday.

"We were kind of unsettled by it. My husband was at work at the time and I said nothing went off. Your radio didn’t go off. No sirens. No nothing," said Selwa.

U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib, and Haley Stevens sent the following letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with a list of questions and concerns.

Dingell Tlaib Stevens Livonia Letter by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

Neighbors say they’re extending grace to NWS meteorologists and hope this will result in improvements in the system, not necessarily disciplinary action.

"There’s certainly nothing we can do about what happened but I don’t necessarily want to blame them for missing it if they don’t have what they need," said Lewis. "I’d be keen on them getting more tools that they can use to predict these things in the future."

"Stuff happens, I get it. Nobody’s perfect. No system's perfect. If someone made a big error on it type thing, I’d like to see somebody held accountable," said Garbarino. "I'd like to see improvements to the system if it didn’t pick it up."

"An answer would be really nice. I realize that not everything is predictable. I get that. Especially having a little one at home with me, that was scary. So maybe a little bit of an explanation just so maybe it doesn’t happen again," said Selwa. "You know, I think about that little kid down the street and maybe if they would’ve known, things might be different."

7 News Detroit reached out to the National Weather Service and received the following statement:

Anytime a weather event results in injury or loss of life, it's a tragedy for the entire community, including the National Weather Service forecasters who live and serve there. Our hearts go out to the community of Livonia for the loss of life on June 5. We have received the Congressional letter and will respond to their inquiry directly.
Susan Buchanan Director of Public Affairs National Weather Service

The representatives asked NOAA/NWS to respond by August 5th.

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