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Ask Mr. Answer Person: "Why doesn't the city use two warning signals for its siren?"

Posted: Wed, Jun 5, 2013 2:04 PM
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Charlie e-mails: "Dear Mr. Answer Person, Why do they sound the *same* siren in Decorah for both a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado warning? Certainly they don't expect the same response to both, and how is anyone supposed to tell the difference? No one is going to run to the basement or crouch in a bathtub with a mattress over them because there's a thunderstorm, but given the weather situation, they do want to be warned of a serious threat. Isn't there a danger that people will begin to think they don't *need* to respond to a siren if they can't tell the difference between one and the other?

Mr. Answer Person says: "One of the reasons I love Decorah is the passion people bring to wanting to improve the community.  Charlie is one of those people who wants a better town.

I mention this because I'm going to completely reject his suggestion, but I still think he deserves praise for making it.

So why won't this suggestion work?  First of all, there's the practical reason--the current siren system only generates one type of tone--it cannot sound different tones. Secondly, even if two different types of tones could be generated, would the public know the difference between the two anyway?  Finally, yes, the police and Weather Service do want people to head to their basements for both a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado warning.  The siren isn't sounded for just any thunderstorm, as you suggest.  Here are the guidelines: "Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued by the National Weather Service or a report received from a trained spotter that includes winds 70 mpg or greater (whole trees blown down) and/or golf ball sized hail or larger (1.75 inches in diameter or greater)."  I'm sure you'll agree you'd want to take shelter in such a case!

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