Tornado Sirens Cause Tense Moments

Thursday, May 8th 2008, 5:19 pm
By: News On 6

Green Country endured another round of severe weather on Wednesday. The sirens sounded after tornado warnings were issued for parts of the viewing area. Although most of Tulsa was never in the path of the storm, the sirens could be heard in many parts of the city.

The News On 6's Chris Wright reports there were a number of nervous people who were downtown and heard those sirens, but emergency management officials say they did not mean to upset anyone unnecessarily.

There were some tense moments Wednesday night as the storm made its way towards South Tulsa and Broken Arrow.

Shortly after 7:00 p.m., the sirens sounded in Tulsa, including many areas not in the path of danger.

"We'd rather be on the cautious side, and warn people to get more information about what is happening to them," said Joe Iverson of Tulsa County Emergency Management.         

Iverson says the system is set up to err on the side of caution. The city's storm sirens are placed in four quadrants. Admiral Avenue separates North and South, Main Street divides East and West.

After talking to the National Weather Service, officials decided to set off the sirens in the bottom two quadrants Wednesday. That included downtown.

When emergency management sounds sirens in one of the four quadrants of the city, it sounds all of them.  So even though the storm was not heading to downtown Wednesday night, the sirens were heard.

Iverson also points out that it's his department's responsibility to get people's attention, but not to tell them exactly where and when a storm will hit.

"It's just to alert them that something is happening, they need to get more information," said Iverson.

And while officials expect to receive complaints after severe weather, they say they would rather hear from those annoyed by the sirens and not from those who never heard them.

The city is also starting to replace its older sirens with newer ones. Emergency management says four of those newer sirens sounded last night without any problems.