5 cell phones, no alert: Manitoba family describes escape from deadly tornado's path
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 6:28PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 6:44PM CST
As more survivors share their stories, more questions are surfacing about the quality of cell phone service near Alonsa. Man.
On Friday, a tornado tore through several rural properties and a beachside campground, but many in the area didn't receive an alert on their phone because they weren't connected to LTE technology.
Even when the Zdans could hear the tornado, there was no warning on their phone.
“When we decided to bail from out of the cottage, part of the reason we bailed was from the noise of this tornado being so close," said Donald Zdan.
Without a basement, Audrey and Donald Zdan took off after they looked into the sky and saw the EF-4 tornado coming straight at them.
"There's four iPhones there and there’s my Samsung, so that's five cell phones there. Nobody got any alert," said Audrey.
The realization of just how close they came to not surviving didn’t come until the next day, when they were searching for belongings.
"That helps the healing," said Donald. "Because you're there looking around and you know you're alive," he added, getting emotional.
Retired teacher Jack Furrie, 77, was killed in the tornado. His grandson, Kelly Brown tells CTV News he had an iPhone 5, but doesn't know if he got the warning.
"It's kind of -- it's pointless to have a warning system if people are not going to get it," Brown told CTV News.
Bell MTS said to receive wireless public alerts people must have compatible LTE phones connected to an LTE network, and that applies to all carriers. The company said it recently upgrades LTE technology in the Alonsa area and service was enhanced overall, but some areas are served by older technology, and that's where some saw reduced coverage.
"LTE is the way to go and we are working with the province, with the municipalities to make sure we are providing coverage in the right areas," said Gary Semplonius, business and marketing sales vice-president with Bell Canada.
The provincial government said it's ensuring Bell MTS is fulfilling its obligation to invest $1 billion in cellular, television and internet technology in Manitoba.
'We are committed to expanding cell phone coverage in Manitoba. We heard loud and clear that Manitobans wants this," said Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires.
The Zdans say there were hundreds of people staying by the beach near their cottage when the tornado hit.
"I can't do texting. I mean I can, but I got to find a spot to do texting. Why do I always have to do that. I should be able to send a text or make a phone call,” said Audrey.
Bell MTS said there is a plan to restore service in areas around Alonsa where service was degraded, but can't confirm a timeline.
Since March 2017, Bell MTS said it's upgraded almost 90 per cent of the Manitoba wireless network to LTE-Advanced, completing coverage around Highway 75.
Wireless Public Alerts are managed by an independent entity called alert ready.
THE CRTC said it's working to gather facts about what happened near Alonsa.