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Johnson County Emergency Management crews assess storm damage

Tornado 'likely' sighted in Kansas City metro
Trent Pittman Johnson County Emergency Management
Posted at 9:46 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 00:11:17-04

STILWELL, Kan. — The weather system that moved through Southern Johnson County on Monday afternoon was powerful enough to uproot trees and damage homes. Several agencies are now working together to figure out how much force the system packed.

In the aftermath of severe storms, a flood of first responders, utility workers and contractors survey the damage. And in Johnson County, there are also members of the Emergency Management Division.

"It’s likely that it was a tornado," Trent Pittman, assistant director of community preparedness for Johnson County Emergency Management, said. "But the strength of that tornado is determined afterwards by the National Weather Service."

NWS will look at the levels of damage to classify the storm, according to Pittman.

"Whether it was just tree damage, light signs, fences, or whether there was a structural, significant structural damage," he said.

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But that kind of information sharing begins way before -- when they're tracking the weather system from the emergency operations center.

"We start receiving reports from the firefighters, from law enforcement and sheriff's office, indicating that tornado on the ground damage at this location, and we're able to coordinate that with local media," Pittman said.


During Monday's storm, emergency management activated tornado sirens in zones one, three and five that encompass south-central, southeast and eastern Johnson County, according to Pittman.

"It was those days that kind of sneaks up on you," Pittman said. "However, it's those policies and procedures that we have in place that kept us on our toes to make sure we're able to respond on short notice."

The NWS, according to Pittman, usually releases its conclusions the day following a severe storm, but in some cases, it can take several days.