Is there too much trust in tornado sirens?

For years, along with television weather reports, tornado sirens have been a trusted source of information when it comes to severe weather.

Posted: May 7, 2018 10:10 PM
Updated: May 7, 2018 10:44 PM

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - For years, along with television weather reports, tornado sirens have been a trusted source of information when it comes to severe weather.

But is it possible to put too much trust in this system?


Curt Clayton, Union County EMA director

"You've got wind. You've got rain. You've got thunder. Your adrenaline is flowing. Your tunnel vision, you're not focusing on exactly what you're hearing," said Union County EMA Director Curt Clayton.

After many tornado warnings, local officials like Clayton often get complaints from people saying they never heard a siren.

"There's too much stuff that can go wrong," he said.

In other words, if you're inside watching TV, or anywhere with headphones on, you may not hear the sirens.

"On a good day, I think it's about three miles is what they're saying for active hearing," Clayton continued.

And even if you hear them loud and clear, that doesn't mean your exact location is in danger.

"The tornado may actually be in west Union County or the far northeast corner of our county, and it's not even in the city of New Albany. But that warning system is still going off."

That's similar to what happened a few weeks ago when parts of Lee County were under a tornado warning. Baldwyn was under the warning, but Tupelo's sirens could still be heard at the WTVA studios, well south of the area in danger.

"I think now, the ones that are going to benefit the most from the sirens would be the travelers that are coming through who aren't from the area or the people who are in the grocery stores or restaurants," Clayton said.

Clayton says he would not recommend the sirens being your number one source of warning. 

As always, you can download the WTVA weather app or subscribe to WeatherCall. Both are capable of alerting you immediately if you're in danger of a tornado.

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