MANSFIELD -- Danny Bailey knew even before the National Weather Service that a tornado was headed into Richland County in April.
The local, licensed amateur radio operator was on the air April 14 and heard operators in Marion and Bucyrus announce they were in a storm capable of producing tornadoes.
"I brought up the net and heard there was a severe thunderstorm warning," Bailey told Richland County commissioners on Tuesday morning. "I was listening to check-ins and finding out where guys were. I heard a gentlemea say, 'Danny I am on U.S. 30 headed toward Crestline and there is a rotating wall cloud above Crestline.'"
"I radioed the National Weather Service (in Cleveland) and told them what we got. They said 'Stand by' and then said 'Thank you. We got it. Tornado warnings going out right now.' We saw it even before they saw it on radar," Bailey said. "We reported it first. The National Weather Service had no idea it was on the ground or anything."
Bailey and fellow radio operator Duane Meadows, both officials in the local Intercity Amateur Radio Club, attended Tuesday's meeting to accept a proclamation from commissioners marking June 16 to 22 as "Amateur Radio Week" in Richland County.
There are more than 400 local, licensed amateur radio operators in Richland County, all of whom donate their communication services for free during emergencies and events, commissioners said.
The tornado that Bailey and other radio operators tracked that day slammed into the south end of Shelby six minutes after they reported the rotating wall cloud to the NWS.
"One of our HAMS radioed he was on (Ohio) 39 going toward Shelby and said, 'I got a tornado on the ground at Rocket Chevrolet.'
"I radioed the National Weather Service to tell them. They said, 'Yep, we see it.' They said, 'Danny, just keeps beating us.' I was busy that whole day," Bailey said.
When the emergency passed, Bailey said the NWS praised the work of the local radio operators.
"They said, 'We can't thank you guys enough. Your logo that you guys go by says amateur radio saves lives and you guys did that today.' Six people got hurt that day, but no one got killed," Bailey said.
During a spring and early summer of odd weather, Bailey recommended everyone obtain a weather radio and make sure it's working.
"It's been an odd season with all this rain and tornado activity," he said.
The IARC is hosting its annual 24-hour field day exercise on June 22 and 23 at South Park in Mansfield. It begins at 2 p.m. and will include a picnic at the pavilion at 6 p.m. The public is invited to the event.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners:
-- accepted a $5,000 grant on behalf of the Richland County Juvenile Court, which will use the funds to provide activities and opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
-- Opened proposals from five firms interested in conducting a new comprehensive wage scale study among the 200 non-union employees of general fund agencies and non-general fund agencies that report to commissioners. Two of the proposals came from Columbus firms and others from Maryland, Florida and Washington. D.C.
Commissioners said they to hope to select the best firm by the end of July.