As regular readers are aware, I am a child of the deep south — New Orleans to be exact. As a result, I am far more familiar with hurricanes and floods than I am with tornadoes and other weather systems that afflict the inland areas of the country.
This is why I must confess to being surprised when I read Bill Graham’s post about weather radios on KansasCity.com. Not because the need for weather radios surprises me, but because I literally had no idea that some areas of the country actually have World War II style sirens for tornado alerts. With a hurricane you get advance notice, but tornadoes appear and disappear with alarming speed. This makes having a weather radio extremely important.
Sirens are a Cold War relic pressed into weather duties. But you won’t always hear one before a tornado strikes.
Two tornados that touched down in the Northland early Friday are proof. They hit about 2 a.m. in Gladstone and Kansas City, North, destroying some houses and severely damaging others.
Those twisters formed and disappeared quickly along a rapidly moving thunderstorm front. No tornado warnings were issued and thus no sirens sounded. Forecasters were not sure whether they were straight-line winds or tornados until they checked the wreckage after daylight arrived.
Now as far as I know, we have never had warning sirens here in the Crescent City, but then we tend to keep an eye on the weather out of reflex. Usually about the only time we get tornadoes is if they spin off from a larger storm, and for most of us, radio is where we get our info. Sudden weather systems like this are something I find extremely unnerving.
So why would a weather radio help in that situation?
Because, forecasters did issue severe thunderstorm and hurricane-force wind warnings before the storm hit. Twice in fact.
A weather radio is usually silent. But when such a warning is issued, an alarm sounds that can wake you up. The radio will then give you recorded or live messages from forecasters about the type of storm, its path and what time the storm will arrive in a community.
When Mother Nature calls, she calls collect. Radio, requiring much less infrastructure than Internet or cell phones, is a medium made for emergency communication during severe weather. “Smart” weather radios that can wake you up when circumstances dictate can make the difference between tragedy and survival.
Sirens? Really? I, for one, would rather trust the airwaves.
Photo courtesy of OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) via [pingnews].