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By Marlana Smith
The National Weather Service (NWS) will better convey the severity and potential impacts from thunderstorm winds and hail by adding a “damage threat” tag to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, similar to Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.
Shelby County 911 Director Lori Miles was notified by NWS at the end of July about the additions.
The “Destructive Tag’ will now set off Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) when a warning is issued that includes either 80+ mph winds or baseball-sized hail.
Miles was instructed by NWS that it will be confusing to the public if cell phones go off, but the outdoor warning sirens are not being sounded.
“I think a consistent warning system is crucial here,” said Kevin Deitsch, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, in an email to Miles.
Miles informed the cities who have sirens about the NWS recommendations.
Bethel, Clarence, Hunnewell, Leonard, Shelbina and Shelbyville approved the recommendation. Each city is responsible in the purchase, upkeep and repairs to their sirens.
The sirens are only set off when the Shelby County 911 Office is contacted through computers by the NWS regarding a tornado warning and now a destructive tag alert.
“Storm sirens are only intended for people outdoors. If inside use your radio, cell phones, television or weather radios to stay alerted,” said Miles.
The two dispatchers on duty at the time of the warning set off sirens based on cities who will be impacted first reported by NWS.
The service provided by the 911 Office and NWS is free to the county.
Miles asks the public not to call the office when they hear the sirens as the office oversees calling county nursing homes, law agencies and other emergency personnel.
Siren tests are conducted at noon the first Monday each month, unless a holiday falls on that day, then the tests will be performed the following day.
If there is bad weather forecasted for the first Monday of the month, it will be scheduled for the following Monday.