Too Many Warnings

It had to happen. Sooner or later, the news had to come out. That Joplin, MO was nearly eradicated earlier this year was a tragic event. The news that came out recently – that the sirens were ignored by many – is, unfortunately, not a surprise.

It’s been a Pet Peeve of mine ever since we moved here to Iowa. I don’t know if it’s this part of the country, or if it’s because NOAA or local governments or whomever is responsible are too reactive. But I have been known to unplug/shut off my NOAA Weather Radio because it is CONSTANTLY screaming at me!!

During the summer, we had a pretty wicked storm come blasting through our area. We knew that we should expect thunderstorms around 5 AM.  At 3:30 AM, I was violently screamed awake by our NOAA Radio. I was shaking as I rushed to check the readout. I fully expected to be racing down the stairs to grab Josh and get into the basement because we were staring down the barrel of a tornado. When I got to the radio, I read:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

WHAT??? That can’t be right. The readout must be wrong. They wouldn’t set off the emergency tones for a stupid watch. I turned on the TV, and sure enough, there’s the crawl. “Severe Thunderstorm Watch”. Still not willing to believe this, I went downstairs where my computer was still on, and I checked my weather sites. The “nasty storm” that it was warning me about was still WEST of Des Moines, which is 2.5 hours from us.  Ticked off, I reset the radio and went back to bed.

At 5 AM I was awakened again; this time by a seriously violent windstorm going on outside my window. Surely they’ll set off the tones, I thought. So I stayed awake, knowing that there was no way, with this nasty weather happening outside, that I was going to sleep. I went downstairs and started surfing the web. I checked weather sites – we were right in the middle of a “red” band on the RADAR. Watching out my front window, which faces West-Southwest, I watched the trees in front of my house bent nearly flat against the ground as crazy winds whipped around us. But still, no tones. No severe storm warning, nothing. I don’t know if NOAA was asleep, closed for a holiday, or just being run by a bunch of interns that night. I have no idea if the sirens went off in town. We’re too far to hear them.

Later I found out that several towns to our south had been hit by 130+ mph winds. And in some communities, the sirens sounded. In others, they remained silent.

There have been other events, too. The alarm is regularly going off for “thunderstorm warnings”. For watches of every kind, from heat advisories, to wind advisories, to snowstorm watches, to flood watches. It has gotten to the point that when I hear the radio interrupted by that scratchy static-beeping, the NOAA radio, or the sirens in town, I look at the sky. If it’s not boiling and reaching a finger toward me, I ignore and move on.

I wonder how many people in Joplin did that on that day? I wonder, if the tones didn’t go off every time the wind shifted, would more people have listened?

Is there an answer? Sure, and it’s a very simple one. Make different tones. Not a different tone for each event (t-storm, flood, snowstorm, heat), but a different tone for each category: watch, warning, and GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY. Because a flash flood or blizzard warning isn’t as unexpected as a tornado warning, which would be upgraded to Get the Hell…

They could also be more specific about where the threat lies. With GPS technology, I find it hard to believe that the best they can do to warn someone about a tornado is to say that it’s somewhere within their county. My county is roughly 575 square miles. A tornado in the northern corner isn’t going to affect me, but one on the southern border just might. But if I want to know that, I have to sign up for warnings for Linn County, too, which is the county south of me. And is also huge. GPS could be imbedded in the NOAA radios – when a tornado is heading for a certain geographical area, the tones would be set off for that area only.

I wouldn’t have a single problem with my tax money being spent on these kinds of upgrades. That’s what it’s there for, not $16 muffins (must.not.rant).

It’s obvious that the current system isn’t working. Something needs to be changed, and I hope that NOAA and our government takes notice of this sad event and makes actual changes, instead of assuming (like they always do) that their method is flawless, and the problem lies with the people.

This entry was posted in emergency, weather conditions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Too Many Warnings

  1. Sue says:

    I thought for sure you’d tell us what inspired this post!!!

  2. Joy says:

    You know what, I never ONCE had my NOAA radio this past summer and I have no plans to plug it back in. I also got sick of the “thunderstorm warnings” and “flash flood” warnings and warnings for things I don’t need a warning for. When I first got the radio I was so happy because we don’t hear the sirens out here but they’ve gotten to be a joke. They go off so often that I didn’t even pay attention anymore. If there’s a bad storm, I stay up at night so I don’t need the thing anymore and I don’t need it going off all day long. Once it went off for air pollution! Seriously!

    I think all this does is make everyone afraid of a cloud. All young kids are now terrified if there’s a cloud in the sky and it’s sickening. What’s the horrible damage that a regular old thunderstorm does? Why do we need a warning for one that’s 100 miles away and won’t even come here?

    If it didn’t come on for such stupid piddly reasons, it would be a good idea but in my opinion, all they’ve done is make everyone afraid of a simple summer thunderstorm.

  3. SKL says:

    When I used to watch TV, it used to tick me off so bad that they’d do those warnings across the screen every time there was a thunderstorm, wind, or snow. They couldn’t just say it once, they couldn’t just make that awful grating noise once. Over and over and over, until you had no idea what the movie was about any more. If I’m sitting in my house watching TV, what do I care about a thunderstorm or snowstorm? I want to know about stuff that could blow away my house and my TV.

    We have a siren here that goes off every Sunday (or is it Saturday) at noon. At least we know that it’s just a test. I have not noticed it ever going off for a real emergency. Then again, maybe it has and I just didn’t notice it.

    I hate to say this, because you know – famous last words. But frankly, I’ve never learned about the really bad, go-to-the-basement stuff from “warnings.” I’ve looked out the window and said, “we’re going to the basement. Now.” And then once we’re down there, I might turn on a radio to see what the warnings are saying.

  4. Laura says:

    1:37am on (what was it? Friday?) the damn thing goes off again. No tones this time, just talking. I get up to turn it off, and look at the readout….



  5. Sue says:

    I also agree that they go off too much. Different tones for things is a good idea, but how about no tones unless it is a warning? Mine doesn’t usually go off for watches, but the little light comes on and most of the time I don’t notice it. I wonder if they can put out warnings like the national weather service does now. Instead of the whole county, they pinpoint it better and say “Northwest Hilbert County to Southeast Brandon County”. I guess I didn’t notice that this summer with the NOAA.

  6. Jenny says:

    This summer it went off A LOT!!! I was getting tired of hearing it. And its so loud too. Torwards the end of the summer I just unplugged ours. I kinda wish that they only had one that would go off for tornados.

    • Laura says:

      you can *allegedly* set it, if it is a “SAME” radio ( and I can’t remember what SAME stands for right now), to only go off for your county. That helps a little… until you get an Avalanche Warning.

    • Joy says:

      Our problem is we’re in a corner of 3 counties. It “could” get us and it “may” not and I got sick of it going off when the weather didn’t warrant it to. I wish there was also a setting just for warnings. The stupid “watches” are what make me mad. A thunderstorm is just that. A little wind. A little rain. A little thunder and lightning. People act like if it gets dark and thunders and getg windy, the sky is going to fall in. We live in a chicken society and we have to know everything RIGHT NOW. I personally like a good ol’ fashioned thunder boomer.

  7. Nikki says:

    I don’t use my weather radio anymore because of this very reason! But don’t tell our grandma that!!! LOL I’m home during the day for the most part, and have the TV on the news during bad weather. If that happens to go out, then I know it’s bad and we go into the laundry room. This past summer, we never had to do that.

    I get it, that they want people to have fair enough warning but they take it to the extreme and usually just end up scaring people for no reason, or just really piss them off!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s