It goes without saying that Indiana is a state that experiences extreme highs, lows, and fluctuations in weather. The onset of spring brings with it severe weather that includes thunderstorms, flash flooding, and tornadoes.
The recently devastating tornadoes and storms that swept through nearby St. Louis, Mo., have many in the region watching the storm system and wondering what might happen if Indiana gets hit. Several systems are in place to warn Hoosiers of the danger of impending weather.
News stations often begin immediately broadcasting severe weather systems and alerts on both television and radio.
Perhaps the most recognizable alerts are the severe weather sirens that warn residents of serious storms. What exactly do those sirens mean and what action should be taken when they sound?
Different counties have different protocols for sounding severe weather sirens. In Marion County, sirens sound when there is a severe thunderstorm coupled with a tornado watch. A tornado watch means there is threatening wind and weather conditions and the possibility of a tornado, if not multiple tornadoes.
In other counties, sirens will sound when there is a tornado warning issued throughout the county. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted by a trained spotter or detected by radar.
Siren confusion has been known to occur among residents when several sirens are issued throughout a weather system. This can lead to residents ignoring the sirens or misinterpreting their meaning.
Marion County officials are hoping to follow the lead of officials in Hamilton County and only sound sirens during a tornado warning. Officials are also working to limit the sirens to sound in specific areas of the county as opposed to sounding throughout the entire county.
Hoosiers may also be able to have access to high tech warnings through cell phone and landline alerts. Changes to the system will also include the weekly 11 a.m. Friday testing of the siren system. Under the new plan, the test will occur just once a month. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is expected to work with lawmakers and approve the measure in July. They hope that with increased awareness and changes to the system, more residents will heed the warnings and know exactly what action to take.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is reminding all Hoosiers that severe weather can strike at any time of day or night. Residents are encouraged to visit the department’s website and fill out a personal family emergency preparedness plan at www.in.gov/dhs/getprepared.htm.