Sounds from the tornado

It's been one heck of a week ... (In case you missed them, here's Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.)

Yesterday, we got our hands on the 911 recordings from the minutes before and after the tornado hit on Monday ...

Fascinating is the only word to describe them. We got two recordings, each unedited and lasting about 30 minutes in real-time. One is a recording of the communications between the county's dispatch center and sheriff's deputies, and the other is of actual 911 calls placed by the public ...

Both start with the report of a traffic accident that occurred minutes before the tornado touched down, just outside the very subdivision that was hardest hit ... What follows is an amazing contrast between deputies calmly taking instructions from a dispatcher and returning reports on what they've found ... and then there are the 911 callers who are first dumbfounded that tornado sirens are going off in January -- some of the exchanges between callers and dispatchers are plain comical. But several minutes into the 911 recordings the lines go eerily silent -- and then, in an instant, the dispatch center is inundated with frantic calls from residents who are trapped in basements, or looking at a neighbor's flattened house. It's a chilling stream of audio ...

For the sheriff's communications, click here. For the 911 calls, click here ... Keep in mind, these recordings are about 30 minutes long; they run in real-time and therefore have some portions of silence. But if you have the time, they're worth a listen ...

During points of listening to the 911 recordings yesterday, I was rolling my eyes at some callers and laughing at others. There was a ridiculous number of people who called 911 to ask why the tornado sirens were going ... Like a sheriff's source told me, No 1, 911 should not be used as an information line; it's an emergency line. And No. 2, if you see menacing skies and it's 60 degrees outside, you don't ask questions; the sirens are going -- that means you need to take cover.

Here are some of my favorite exchanges ...

Woman: “I just want to know why the sirens are going off?”
Dispatcher: “It’s not a test. It’s a warning”
Woman: “Oh. Ok, nothing to worry, though, right.”
Dispatcher: “No, that IS something to worry about.”
Woman: “Well, I don’t see nothing.”
Dispatcher: “Well, it’s there, ok?”

(This person identifies herself as an emergency management worker, which makes it even more amusing that she's calling to ask about the sirens ...)
Woman: “Hi, this is Cheryl, emergency management. I was in (indecipherable) and I just walked out and heard the sirens, um—”
Dispatcher: “Yes, it’s a tornado warning we just got through the time system and our fax.”
Woman: “Ok, and is it in our area here or how does the—”
Dispatcher: “Heading toward us.”

Man: “I’m just trying to find out if the tornado warning—”
Dispatcher: “It’s an actual warning.”
Man: “Ok, so people should—”
Dispatcher: “Take cover. Ok?”

Man: “I’m just trying to find out what that big ol’ siren was.”
Dispatcher: “That’s a tornado warning.”
Man: “It’s a tornado warning?”
Dispatcher: “It’s not a test.”
Man: “Ooooh. So I should get in the basement.”
Dispatcher: “Yes, you should.”

Man: “Yes, I was wondering if there was just a tornado in Silver Lake?”
Dispatcher: “There’s a tornado warning for the entire county.”
Man: “Ok. So there ain’t no tornadoes right now?”
Dispatcher: “No. It’s a warning, meaning that there are.”

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