Manitoba premier to probe lack of general warning about deadly tornado
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he wants to find out why an alert system failed to adequately warn people about last week’s tornado near Lake Manitoba that left one person dead and created a wide swath of destruction.
Pallister spent Monday afternoon touring the area in and around Alonsa, which was hit Friday night by an EF4 tornado that destroyed homes and cottages, tossed vehicles in the air and damaged hydro infrastructure.
The premier says he was shocked after seeing the damage, adding that his government will continue to work with municipal officials during the recovery.
Dozens of people say they were unprepared for the tornado because poor cellphone reception in the area meant they didn’t get public warnings about a potentially dangerous storm until they saw the twister and felt the intense wind.
Association of Manitoba Municipalities executive director Joe Masi says service providers treat coverage in rural communities as a business case, and he’s urging the province to work with the providers to improve cell service.
Rogers and Bell MTS say they’re addressing service issues, while Telus didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I’m going to be inquiring as to what has happened here in terms of the providers and the quality of service,” said Pallister.
“I think that’s the question that local people want addressed. They’re not looking at blaming, I don’t think. They’re frankly very pleased that they’re alive.”
A text-message-based alert system sent warnings to some residents, but others didn’t receive one until they were already fleeing.
Bell MTS says the public alerts on any cellphone service provider’s phones equipped with LTE wireless technology can only be received if those phones are connected to an LTE network.
Much of the area surrounding Alonsa is serviced by networks which predate that technology, meaning public alert technology is ineffective or doesn’t function at all, a company representative said.
When asked whether the province would provide an incentive to carriers to improve coverage in the area, Pallister said it was too early to consider such a move.