Who Decides When to Sound the Tornado Sirens? (It’s a Little Complicated)
Ever wonder who decides when to sound the tornado sirens? The answer is, 'It depends.' According to the National Weather Service; individual counties and cities own the sirens, and decide independently how and when to activate them. The NWS does not control the sirens.
Because of that, each county or city may have different guidelines as when to activate the sirens. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings only. Others will activate sirens countywide for tornado warnings and all severe thunderstorm warnings. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms that have winds of at least 70 or 75 mph. Others will activate sirens only for portions of counties. Local officials may also sound the sirens anytime they believe severe weather is a threat, even if there is no warning from the National Weather Service.
Stearns County will sound the sirens when a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, OR when there have been reports of 70+ mph wind gusts or golf ball sized hail, OR a funnel cloud has been reported by a public safety official to be halfway to the ground from the could base, OR a tornado is within 10 miles and approaching.
When Stearns County sounds the sirens, they will run for three minutes. When they stop, it doesn’t mean the threat is over. You’re urged to get weather conditions from local media to know when it’s safe again. If sirens sound a second time, it’s not an all-clear. It means the National Weather Service has issued another warning.
Additionally, the sirens are sounded statewide at 1:00 PM the first Wednesday of each month as a test.
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