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NOAA, NWS Honor Van Wert, OH, Heroes For Saving Lives Through StormReady

NOAA and the NWS honored Van Wert, OH, community heroes at a December 10, 2002, public awards ceremony for their actions, which saved countless lives during a tornado outbreak that claimed four lives and injured 26 on November 10, 2002.

The first-ever StormReady Community Hero Award was presented to Van Wert County Emergency Manager Rick McCoy, County Commissioner Gary Adams, and Van Wert City Mayor Stephen Gehres for establishing the county's StormReady program with the NWS. Van Wert Cinemas assistant manager Scott Shaffer was given the NOAA NWS Public Service Award for ushering moviegoers to safety after hearing an NWS tornado warning.

"NOAA feels a great compassion for all those people of Van Wert who lost their homes to this destructive tornado," said Timothy R.E. Keeney, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmospheres for the Department of Commerce. "At the same time, we must be grateful that due to the timely forecast of the National Weather Service and the prompt and heroic action of the emergency management community and others, the tragedy was not worse in terms of lives lost."

"Van Wert citizens will be putting their lives back together for a long time after this destructive tornado," said McCoy. "But at least, thanks to StormReady and the lead time provided by the weather forecasts, we were able to save many, many lives."

Alerted by a warning from the local StormReady radio alert system, Shaffer and his staff evacuated more than 50 adults and children from the theater just minutes before the powerful tornado tore off the building's roof and tossed cars into the screen and front seats where kids and parents had been watching 'The Santa Clause 2.'

"The power of nature is an awesome thing," Shaffer said. "Thank God and a good staff we had enough time to get people to safety."

Mike Sabones, Meteorologist-in-Charge and Steve Eddy, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, of the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast Office in Syracuse, IN, worked with state and county officials for nearly a year to bring Van Wert to StormReady status.

"This is a real success story for the Weather Service, NOAA Weather Radio, and StormReady programs," said Sabones. "It's a case where a timely and accurate weather warning activated the system, allowing people to promptly respond, saving lives." Presenting the awards were Keeney and NWS Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy.


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Last Updated: April 23, 2008