When the civil defense sirens sound during severe weather, we expect it to be followed by the buzzing sound of the Emergency Alert System on our radios and televisions announcing a Tornado Warning, followed by it’s location and other information.
However, this wasn’t the case in the city of North Platte last night.
The civil defense warning sirens, or tornado sirens as most of us refer to them, sounded last night even though the National Weather Service hadn’t issued a Tornado Warning for the city, prompting many residents to ask why.
According to the North Platte 911 Center, they were given a Severe Warning 1, which is a step above a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, and requires emergency personnel to act as if there were an imminent threat to life and property.
The National Weather Service (NWS) advised North Platte Dispatchers that they were tracking a very strong cell near the Lake Maloney area, which was showing signs of rotation on radar. While the storm had not produced a radar indicated or confirmed tornado, storms in the area were increasing in severity rapidly prompting warning coordinators to upgrade the warning.
The civil defense sirens are not just for Tornadoes, but rather are to be used in any situation where there is an imminent or potentially imminent threat to life and property.
Fortunately, the city of North Platte was spared from tornadoes last night. Nonetheless, many communities in our area did receive large hail up to the size of tennis balls and winds in excess of 80 miles per hour, causing significant damage to property.
Here are the warning definitions from the NWS:
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
This is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.
This is issued when a tornado is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or sighted by spotters; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. They can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes.
In the event of severe weather, stay tuned to the North Platte Post Facebook Page and the Eagle Radio family of stations, Mix 97.1, Q Country 107.3 and ESPN Radion 1410. We will keep you advised of all developing information.