As spring approaches, Midwesterners know, severe weather is just around the corner. Below is the severe weather alert system guidelines, as outlined at http://www.muscatineiowa.gov/750/Severe-Weather.
The outdoor warning sirens are activated in order to communicate to the public a public safety issue. Sirens are sounded for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, as well as non-weather events. When the siren activates, seek shelter in a safe place. Please review this website for direction on your reaction to siren activation during severe weather – http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html.
When are the sirens sounded?
The sirens are activated when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued or a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), or a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted by a trained weather spotter. A warning is issued if the NWS or a trained spotter reports wind greater than 70 mph and/or hail golf ball sized or greater. Straight line winds several years ago caused damage to the community, including the loss of several large trees in Weed Park. Because of the safety concerns of these thunderstorms is similar to the safety concerns for tornadoes, there is no difference in siren tones.
Sirens are also utilized for non-weather safety concerns, which could include a large hazardous materials release or terrorist event.
What should I do when they sound?
When the sirens are activated, please do not call 911 to find out why. During these events the number of emergency calls increases (usually for stranded motorists, people in harm’s way of the storm, and storm related issues such as downed live power lines and downed trees). If you have an emergency, call 911. If you are looking for information, please do not – the 911 operators have emergency calls to answer and are not able to provide you the information you are seeking. Please remember that if you call the police or fire department non-emergency line the call will likely roll over into the 911 dispatch center since the emergency responders are likely to be responding to emergencies outside the station. The best way to gather information is to access a broadcast, weather radio message, or internet website for weather stations. Those resources are often used by emergency responders to gather information on the situation, so by tuning into one of those resources you will have the most up to date information – better than if you were to call the 911 center.
An “All Clear” tone is no longer sounded – please review the weather stations to see when the alerts expire, and only return to normal activities if the situation is over and the area is safe. After a storm, DO NOT go near any downed power lines, and keep safety in mind when viewing storm damage in your location. PLEASE DO NOT travel around town looking at storm damage – often times this increase in traffic hinders emergency responders as they go to calls for help. Local media can often show the damage better than personal viewing, and is much safer for everyone.
Sirens are tested the first Monday of the non-freezing months (April – October) at 11:00 am. If a siren fails to sound, please contact the Muscatine County Emergency manager at 563.264.6003 after the storm has passed.