When and Why Emergency Sirens are Sounded
Thunder crashed and winds howled to the background of the city’s emergency sirens Monday, raising questions for many in San Angelo about the severity of the impending storm and what exactly those sirens signal.
In a brief chat Tuesday afternoon, city Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Mild shed some light on the city’s siren system, clarifying when and for what reasons the horns will be sounded.
“The city’s policy is anytime that there is winds of 70 mph or greater and/or there is golf-ball sized hail or larger that will be striking San Angelo, the sirens are sounded,” he said.
Mild said that if the National Weather Service has indicated that a confirmed tornado is headed toward San Angelo, the city will also sound the sirens. On Monday, hail was the cause of the alert, however Mild says that if one wants to know exactly what the sirens mean during a given event, they should tune into the City’s television and radio stations, and that preferably before the storm hits.
“They shouldn’t wait until they hear the sirens,” Mild said. “They need to have their radios turned on, have their TVs turned on to a local station before the storm gets to the city. That’s where they’re going to find out if they’re dealing with wind or hail or a tornado, so when the sirens go off, they know what to do.” San Angelo LIVE! is another good source of weather information.
Rumors abound concerning tornados in Carlsbad and Grape Creek on Monday, however Mild confirms that none actually hit anywhere in Tom Green County on Memorial Day. Tornado spotters were set up from Midland to Schleicher and Brownwood on Monday, Mild said, and the only touch downs he’s aware of were a couple of small ones west of Sterling City and a couple of small ones northwest of Broom.
Tornados are considered funnels until they actually touch the ground, he added. When they touch the ground and debris is being moved they are considered tornados. If a rotating funnel is headed toward the city, Mild said, the sirens will be sounded as a precautionary measure due to how quickly one can touch down and cause destruction.
In the event of severe weather, Mild says the best thing people can do is have a plan in place ahead of time and follow that plan when the time comes. Those living in mobile homes may be particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, he said, so having a plan of where to go during a storm is vital.
“The public safety dispatch center and National Weather Service were inundated with calls from people who live in mobile homes,” Mild said of the weekend. “That’s something you should make arrangements for long before the weather ever gets here.”
In the event of severe weather and tornados, Mild said people should go to the safest part of the house or building they are in. In houses, Mild said a hall running through the center of the house may be the safest, or an interior room. For those without a hallway, a bathroom or bathtub is likely the safest place to wait, and Mild suggests people cover themselves with blankets, pillows or a mattress if possible. Children should wear bicycle or football helmets during a tornado if they have them.
Mild also suggests that people set up plans with others in the community in case one side of town is affected and citizens need to flee their homes. This is particularly important for those living in mobile homes, he said.
“Whether they live in a good sturdy house or whether they live in a mobile home, they need to be making good safety plans well ahead of time,” he said.
For more information on the city’s emergency sirens, click here or watch the video below.
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