LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ford Motor Co. defended its decision to keep operating its Kentucky Truck Plant as normal on Tuesday afternoon even as an EF-1 tornado touched down just north of the plant in eastern Jefferson County.
The plant, which employs more than 8,000 people making pickup trucks and SUVs, was within the polygon warning area promulgated by the National Weather Service’s Louisville office as the storm approached Tuesday.
And the National Weather Service’s official survey confirms that the tornado tracked through Worthington Hills, a neighborhood immediately northeast of the plant.
Workers at the plant said they weren’t allowed to pause and seek shelter even as their smartphones were dinging with weather alerts.
But rather than the National Weather Service, Ford relies on commercial weather forecaster AccuWeather to determine when its plants should begin their “take shelter” process during severe weather, according to a statement Wednesday from Kelli Felker, a spokeswoman at the company’s Dearborn, Mich. headquarters.
“Based on our monitoring criteria and the AccuWeather meteorologist continuously monitoring of the storm, the storm was not tracking close enough to present a danger or threat to our employees or facility,” Felker said in the statement.
There was no damage to the plant or injuries to workers, she confirmed.
A call to AccuWeather’s headquarters in State College, Pa., was not immediately returned.
Todd Dunn, president of UAW Local 862, the union representing line workers at the plant, said union and company officials are jointly looking into the incident.
He declined to comment on whether he saw any problems with how the situation was handled.
"Obviously, the safety of our workers -- union, management -- is paramount," Dunn said.