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Weather expert refutes EMA's tornado siren explanation

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 5/01/2014 10:33 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - Hundreds of Tupelo residents continue to claim tornado sirens didn't work during Monday's storms.

On Wednesday, Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Bowdry insisted the sirens did go off, and offered this explanation for why people didn't hear them:

"The wind is sucking everything upward," Bowdry said. "If the sound got sucked up with the tornado coming through, then you wouldn't have heard it."

Mississippi State Climatologist Michael Brown doesn't buy it, in fact, he said it's impossible.

"There's no way the tornado sucked that sound up," Brown said.

He said wind has no control over sound.

"They [Lee County EMA] believe the sirens sounded," he said. "The computer, controls or whatever showed that they were activated. I just think something went wrong."

While several people across the city said the sirens didn't sound, but that's not to say it didn't go off in some places.

Kevin Harper lives on Nelle Street, towards Midtown; he said he heard it loud and clear.

"I heard," he said. "It's like echoing and going all the way around."

But most of the complaints come from West Tupelo. For example, one resident living on Colonial Estates has a siren in her backyard; she didn't hear anything.

Brown said regardless of the tornado noise, if it had sounded, she would have heard it. 

"Knowing tornado sirens like I do, there's not a doubt in my mind that she would have heard the audible tone in that siren," Brown explained.

But Brown also worries sirens give people false sense of security. "Tupelo learned a good lesson- that you shouldn't rely on sirens."

"They worked in some area; they didn't in other areas," he said.

Because of all the complaints, Brown believes there's only one conclusion. Despite what the data reports show, something went wrong Monday.

"I don't think anybody did anything wrong," he said. "I just think there was a problem, and those sirens didn't sound."

Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson said the EMA will conduct their monthly siren maintenance test this Saturday at noon.

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