Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sun, Snow, Meltage, Fake Tornado?

     Yeah.  Sure.  Why not?   Just to cap off the last few days of this-goes-to-11 weather, Indiana's statewide tornado drill will happen Wednesday.  Twice, even -- once in mid-morning and again about dinner time, the sirens will sound, the TV and radio station will sound off, and J. Random Everyman (and woman) will head to the storm cellar complain about the TV shows, hit tunes or talk-show bloviators being interrupted.

     It's for your own good, more or less.  But maybe not like you'd think: the entire chain of alarums and alerts is only tested as a complete system just this once, each Spring.  It's only slightly automatic; there's a lot of human intervention -- or out at the ends where you and I notice it, sometimes far too little human intervention in the form of  maintenance.*  This is the one chance to catch the more egregious faults before tornado season starts.  If you notice it enough to be a bit annoyed, that's a good thing: it means it worked.  Heading to the basement is optional.
* Some years ago, the city of Kokomo found their siren system had major gaps in the form of failed units and shifting population, and after crunching the numbers, realized it was more cost-effective to hand out a weather radio to everyone in town!  Hey, whatever works.


Jennifer said...

Our sirens are tested every Saturday at noon. Unless there are actually storms. Makes for interesting conversations with non-locals.

Stranger said...

Jennifer has a very good reason to be glad her sirens are tested.

Although Missisloppy has more tornadoes than the Sooner State, they are generally F1's and 2's compared to Edmond's 4's and 5's.


Anonymous said...

Better go buy bread and milk now before the test. Or should you only buy powdered milk and flour since it's only a fakey test?

Roberta X said...

Anon: also, powdered eggs.

Jennifer, plain siren tests are Fridays at 11:00 a.m. here (should be noon but they got tripped up when we started doing daylight savings time and just pretended they wanted it that way).

This test is the whole dang system, starting at the National Weather Service office in Indy, activating the State EAS system (broadcast stations) both station-to-station relay and via computer network, local Public Service agencies, alarms on NOAA Weather Radio and the info signs on the freeways *and* activating the volunteer weather observer system and the amateur radio network that relays their info to NWS. It's a full-dress rehearsal!

Chuck said...

I wonder what the tie-in, or perhaps, the trigger, is between NWS and the alert/siren system. As in, "can it be believed."

I've noticed over the past couple of years NWS zaps out alerts when a cloud passes in front of the sun. Setting S.A.M.E. to one county doesn't help much because one NWS transmitter will cover multiple counties so you get the alert whether it affects you or not; the better weather alert radios allow de-programming of alert types so one can narrow the alerts, but when the first distant rumble of thunder produces the "we're all gonna die" response from the nannies it becomes somewhat less useful.

I hope it works better with your sirens.

Roberta X said...

A very good question, Chuck. In Indiana, the answer is "it varies." Each county establshes its own rules for the sirens. Marion County (Indianapolis) has generally set the bar very high. They haven't quite managed to implement nine zones for the county, so AFAIK, the sirens go off only for warning (immediate threat) conditions.

The various alert systems are best supplemented with live-est radar data you can get (some NOAA weather radar product can be 5 to 10 minutes late due to processing time) and, yes, local broadcast stations. The latter are usually harkening doom but they will pinpoint the high risk locations as best they can.

mikelaforge said...

Umatilla Chemical Depot in the PN-Dub and, IIRC, Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana also did a emergency radio distribution for the local populations during their chemical weapon demil missions due to the size of the downwind hazard zones.

Jennifer said...

Ah, I see. I don't think they ever run a full-dress rehearsal here. Everything get wound up for real every spring anyway. They are currently talking about introducing "stronger language" warnings. Honestly, if you live in Oklahoma and choose not to seek shelter when the news tells you there is a tornado bearing down on your location, we probably don't need you in the gene pool anyway.