Tornado sirens not only way to be aware of incoming severe weather

By: Rachel Witter

You may have heard the tornado sirens going off this weekend, but some said they didn't hear them.

Lancaster County has 117 tornado sirens across the city and in some rural areas.

But the intended function of the sirens is to warn people who are outdoors.

It was a scary sound for many on Saturday.

But Emergency Management says too much emphasis is being put on relying on outdoor sirens.

Out of the 117 sirens in Lancaster County, two of them didn't go off this weekend because they were struck by lightning.

Doug Ahlberg, director of the Lancaster County Emergency Management, said, “They're mechanical. One, that I can tell you specifically, was struck by lightning prior to the storm actually hitting here and I'm talking about the severe thunderstorm.  But it was struck by lightning.  The receivers didn't work, so it didn't work.”

Emergency Management was in full force this weekend and the decision to sound the sirens came shortly after 11:30 on Saturday night.

“Though many people did hear a siren go off this weekend, these tornado sirens are a way to warn people who might be outside in the event of a tornado, not indoors,” said Ahlberg.

Relying on a signal going off outside is not a good way to get your weather information.

The siren noise can be muted by heavy rain, wind and even insulated walls.

“The best advice we can give to people is to buy a NOAA weather radio or to watch [local television stations] when there is the possibility of severe weather,” he said.

What should everyone take from this Saturday's close call?

Have a way to get weather information that doesn't rely on a tornado siren, because there is a chance you might not be able to hear it next time.

Ahlberg said, “Nothing happened.  Are people aware of weather now?  Yes.  Because it came that close.”

Emergency Management said your best bet is a NOAA weather radio during severe weather.  They cost around $30 and are worth every penny.