MEXICO—Thanks to emerging technology, better science and a desire to keep Audrain County residents safe from natural hazards, the Audrain County Emergency 911 Center is updating its policy of when to activate the outdoor warning sirens in municipalities in the county. The decision comes after the National Weather Service issued a change to their Severe Thunderstorm Warnings when winds are expected to be 80 miles per hour or more and large, damaging hail 2 and 3/4 inch (baseball size) or larger and an event close to Audrain County in July.
Audrain County Emergency 911 Director Amanda Crewse says the severe storm event in Ralls County in early July that decimated a large part of Perry’s natural landscape and damaged numerous buildings and homes helped make the decision for administrators at E911, but it wasn’t the only driver.
“We had been discussing the move to sound the sirens when a severe storm warning was issued with the destructive tag after I received an email talking about the change at the National Weather Service from Major Brice Mesko at Mexico Public Safety,” Crewse said. “We talked about it internally and made the decision to make the change to the policy. The Perry storm just solidified our decision for us.”
National Weather Service St. Louis Warning Coordination Meteorologist Kevin Deitsch says it’s great to see another county make the decision to move to the new policy that sounds sirens for these destructive Severe Thunderstorm Warnings.
“I am very proud Audrain County has decided to make this change,” Deitsch said. “If you look back to just one year ago, a prolific straight-line windstorm devastated much of the state of Iowa.”
“In fact,” Deitsch continued, “the Iowa windstorm is now the costliest thunderstorm on record in the world, a storm the produced widespread 80-100+ mph straight line wind damage. These storms can be more devastating over a larger area than tornadoes and we are happy counties are now sounding the sirens to warn their citizens about them.”
Crewse says most of the warning sirens in the county have the capability to play an automated message alerting those outside what the threat is, a destructive severe thunderstorm or a tornado, so that message will not be lost.
“The outdoor warning sirens are just that,” she said. “They are for those outside when severe weather threatens. Those outside when the sirens sound will be able to tell what type of warning it is by stopping and listening to the automated message in communities where that is a feature of the sirens. Remember, the sirens aren’t designed to be heard indoors so, please don’t rely on them to keep you safe.”
The change to the policy takes effect immediately and will be in place when the next severe event threatens the Audrain County area. In addition to the sirens sounding, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system will also give residents warning via their cell phones. For information on the WEA system, please visit this site: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea