Man­i­toba premier to probe lack of gen­eral warn­ing about deadly tor­nado

The Western Star - - CANADA -

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.


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