County can’t send immediate alerts
On its website, Marion County encourages residents to sign up to receive updates about severe weather and other emergencies by text message or email. Recent storms suggest that residents shouldn’t depend on those messages as their first line of defense.
The National Weather Service in Wichita issued a severe thunderstorm warning for western Marion County at 5:54 p.m. May 7, but the county’s Nixle alert wasn’t sent until 6:18 p.m., 24 minutes later. With the storm reported near Moundridge moving at 50 mph, it would have been between Hillsboro and Durham by the time residents received the message.
Then, on May 11, the National Weather Service issued another severe thunderstorm warning for the western portion of the county, but no county alerts were sent out. The county re-tested the system on May 13.
Communications director Linda Klenda said she was checking with Nixle, the company that provides the service, about possible technical issues, but she added that there will always be a delay between a warning being issued and messages being sent out. Dispatchers have to enter the message to be sent, and the messages are not the top priority.
“Our dispatch duties have to come before that,” Klenda said.
In February, Klenda told the county commission that only about 60 people had signed up for the service.