Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tornado/High Wind Sirens

As we all watched severe weather move through the state over the weekend...many were asking about the number of times the sirens were going off in their neighborhoods.

The water cooler talk yesterday included many who were frustrated that sirens were sounded as many as three times late Saturday and early Sunday morning. Many of those folks said they were without power and could not watch coverage of the storms. (((They did not have their battery powered NOAA weather radios at hand.)))

The sirens in Polk County are now going to sound every time there is a tornado warning and each time we have wind gusts at or above 70 MPH. It is new policy that has been used two times this summer.

The National Weather Service in Johnston has received so many calls and emails about the sirens they posted information on the outdoor siren system, the letter from the Polk County Emergency Management that explains the high wind warnings, and frequently asked questions about weather sirens.

Here are the links: www.crh.noaa.gov/images/dmx/Attachment2.11bSirenFAQ.pdf
www.crh.noaa.gov/images/dmx/Attachment2.11SirenActivation.pdf
www.crh.noaa.gov/images/dmx/Outdoor-Warning-Siren-Letter.pdf

Here is my take...

I think a tornado siren needs to be a tornado siren. We only, on the average year, hear the siren go off in our neighborhoods 5 to 15 times. It is such an important part of our outdoor warning system. It is too much for folks to expect different events to be warned by the same siren that has been used for tornado warnings since Word War II.

High wind warnings need to have a different signal. Maybe three short blasts on the siren...a different sound that would make sure folks in the area would know this was a warning for wind gusts over 70 mph.

The Best Answer.....

We have...for years...asked our viewers to get the NOAA weather radios in their homes and in their cars. This is really the best way to be warned about tornadoes, high wind, flash flooding and other environmental hazards in your specific area.

We have partnered with the Science Center of Iowa and Fairway Stores to make sure the portable...hand-held...battery and electric powered weather radios are available at a reasonable price.

Get one now and make sure you are ready when the storms hit and power is out.

2 comments:

Samantha said...

The bad thing about the sirens, for me at least, is that 29 years of living in Iowa has conditioned me to think that if the sirens are going off, even if there isn't a tornado warning, and there's a severe storm, that it's possible a tornado has been spotted *somewhere* nearby, and that even if an official warning hasn't gone off, I want to hit the basement. But having a small child, I also don't want to teach her to run to the basement unnecessarily and be extra fearful (plus, not all of us have nice finished basements that are pleasant to spend time in). It's also not fun to wake a toddler up in the middle of the night if you don't truly have to. I really want the sirens to only sound when there's a meaningful warning. Is there any chance that Polk County might amend this policy? It's extraordinarily disconcerting to hear those sirens and know there's an ambiguous meaning behind them. Even knowing there wasn't a tornado warning remotely close to my neighborhood early Sunday morning, when the sirens were going off I was really torn on how to act because I kept thinking, "But maybe a tornado's been spotted and the warnings just aren't keeping up." At night especially, when a tornado might be difficult to spot, it's absolutely eerie to hear those sirens. I'm sure other families were in the same boat. There's got to be some better middle ground than just having a radio.

BLOG100 said...

here in Michigan, our city's policy is that the sirens will sound for tornado warnings, routine testing and straight line winds 70 MPH+. Funny thing is that if a tornado warning's issued ANYWHERE in the county, our city will turn them on, it's so annoying.