Archive for Monday, May 12, 2008

Siren sound off

Douglas County Commissioners seek input on when to activate alarm

May 12, 2008


Public input wanted regarding storm siren policy

You'll have a chance to voice your opinions about Douglas County's storm siren warning policy later this month. Enlarge video

Douglas County leaders are trying to strike a delicate balance when it comes to sounding outdoor tornado warning sirens.

"I don't want it to go off every time a cloud comes out of the southwest," County Commissioner Bob Johnson said during Monday's commission meeting.

"Even now there are people who pay no attention to the sirens whether they hear them or not," he said.

Perhaps the sirens should be about more than tornadoes, Commissioner Charles Jones said. He noted that the last two damaging wind storms to hit the area involved mostly straight-line winds. He said he wonders if enough is being done to warn people.

"It just seems to me that the warnings ought not be just about tornadoes. It should be about people and risk and where to go beyond that," Jones said.

Commissioners want to hear what the public thinks about the use of tornado sirens. They scheduled a public hearing on the issue for their May 21 meeting. The meeting starts at 6:35 p.m. on the second floor of the courthouse, 1100 Mass.

Most likely, commissioners will hear mixed sentiments from the public. That's what Commissioner Jere McElhaney said he has heard from people since the siren issue came up nearly two weeks ago. Many of them want the policy reviewed, he said.

During the early morning hours of May 2 storms blew through the county causing damage. The county didn't sound the sirens even though the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. The county's policy is not to sound the sirens unless there is a local determination that one exists.

Emergency Management Director Teri Smith said she, too, had received mixed comments by phone and e-mail about the policy since the storm. But during last Thursday's emergency management committee meeting only two local residents showed up for a discussion despite advance publicity about the meeting.

Among other business, commissioners on Monday approved a preliminary plat and conditional use permit for a new Willow Springs Township Fire Station No. 2. The station will be built at the intersection of North 650 and East 1100 roads, southwest of Pleasant Grove.


igby 9 years, 10 months ago

If it takes a court order, Branson's office or the AG's office's opinion or a public forum to define when to use the warning system; if we have leaders as such, that never will admit they are not capable of making responsible policy, they are no longer any good for society. Get rid of them, they have been in office to long.

KsTwister 9 years, 10 months ago

Considering that the tornado that hit Missouri went from an E1 to and E4 in just a few miles you may want to use the wind speed that makes the damages from 110E1- 166E4 bearing in mind that roof structures fly at 122mph wind speeds. Better to err on the side of caution.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago must deal with facts and not emotions, which is unfortunately wjhat most people are going on here on these blogs.Question-was there EVER a tornado in the city limits of lawrence that night???answer-no*********So are you proposing that everytime the wind blows the sirens should be activated? Or is it your position that anytime there are winds above x, then they should be sounded? Im confused as to your position on this??

monkeyspunk 9 years, 10 months ago

"I tried to convey to people that you need to take personal responsibility, have a plan for you and your family, you CANNOT rely on a siren, as these sirens can malfunction at the drop of a hat."And not one person has disagreed with this argument ksdivakat, not one. Yet you continue to use it as a response to KSA and other's concerns over the county's siren policy. Why?Why do you defend people who for the most part disagree with you? The county wants sirens, they want MORE sirens. This is about the COUNTY'S responsibilities. Period. You would think after 4 or 5 threads on the issue you would have figured it you. Yes, we should take measures to take care of our families ourselves, but if the county insists on using OUR tax dollars to pay $20,000 or so per siren, then they should have a sound policy when it comes to their use. You want to defend the county's policy? Good luck. But your continuous pseudo-defense of it by telling people they need to take responsibility for themselves is tired. Perhaps KSA is doing just that, did that ever cross your mind?

TopJayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

KSA. I still want to know why you glorify child abuse. You won't answer. Come on man, stand up for yourself, are on the sexual predator registry?

Rickyonealku 9 years, 10 months ago

I was in Lawrence, Kansas over the weekend watching the Saturday afternoon evening storms develop. To my amazement the wall clouds that I watched had rotation and could drop a tornado at any time but no advance sirens were sounding. When traveling my weather radio is with me at all times, plus my weather radio had received an advance warning Saturday May 10, 2008 at 3:32 PM.RickyNorman, OklahomaP.S. my home in Norman, Oklahoma is located one mile from the National Server Weather Center!!!!

vega 9 years, 10 months ago

While they are establishinig 'delicate balance" I am going to keep checking NWS tomorrow afternoon, I don't trust Douglas county community leaders anymore.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

This conversation is like the energizer keeps going and going and going, and the thing is that nobody, and I mean nobody is doing anything about it.Since the storm rolled through lawrence people have been on these blogs fussing about the sirens not sounding. I tried to convey to people that you need to take personal responsibility, have a plan for you and your family, you CANNOT rely on a siren, as these sirens can malfunction at the drop of a hat.The sirens went off in OP saturday night, there was no tornado, but the way in which the siren is positioned the wind caught it and set it off. The same is true for them NOT going off even if the button is pushed to sound them.You simply cannot and should not EVER depend on the sirens to tell you when there is bad weather.I can also tell you this, having been down in SE KS, NE OK, and SW MO for the last few days, and seeing the total devestation, I havent spoke to 1 person who mentioned anything about the sirens. Its not a concern, its not even a fleeting thought in their minds, some of them have lost everything.2 people showed up at the EOC meeting, which was promoted for several days before it took place.....why only 2 people? If your so concerned about the siren system, then you should have been there. Otherwise, you have no credibility, only the fact that you just want to fuss. Please I beg each and everyone of you, take responsibility for yourselves and your family, make a plan, make sure everyone in your family knows the plan, practice it! But never rely on the siren to tell you that there is bad weather.

KsTwister 9 years, 10 months ago

Some people have to work a job or two to keep up with cost of those darn sirens. How that is dangerous when roofs blow off and trees fall on homes and care just because some are upset they did not go off for the conditions that were present is beyond me. I guess when it costs a life it worth the electricity?? And why have them if at all if that is the case. Lawrence could have easily gotten what Missouri got if the storm had dropped its potential early. Several people in the path could not believe they just sit on their laurels and let us fend for ourselves----which is exactly what you are asking for. Incredible.

KEITHMILES05 9 years, 10 months ago

Too error on the side of caution is the best policy.Why would any county wish to do otherwise?For Douglas county not to take a more serious approach is appalling.

conservative 9 years, 10 months ago

I agree that if the sirens sound too often then people will ignore them. I remember when growing up in the 80's my hometown would sound the sirens every time there was a WATCH not just when there was a warning. As a result they basically got ignored.That being said I think that the county should concentrate on determining when they want to sound the sirens without a warning from the NWS. If the NWS issues a warning then please turn on the sirens. 1.6 times a year definitely is not a desensitizing number of occurences.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

ok, also think about this...most importantly think about this......what if ahuge storm blows up there and there is a tornado warning issued and they hit the button to sound the siren and no siren....malfunction....what then???And by the way, whomever wrote that the sirens are 20k was wayyyy off base, those sirens are about 750k per siren. And monkey, the county wants more sirens to cover a larger area..IE: rual areas.....not to be able to sound them everytime the wind blows.And finally, I will ask again since nobody has answered.....why werent any of you there at the meeting?? If you want the policy changed why didnt you show up to get that done???

Erin Graham 9 years, 10 months ago

Bottom line of all of the arguments I've read on several different articles- the science of meteorolgy has come a long way in its relatively short life. As with any science (even medicine), it's improving and perfecting itsself every day. The people at the National Weather Service have gone through rigorous coursework in math and science and experience to be where they are. Meteorology, as with ANY science, is imperfect. BUT to completely disregard the NWS, especially in a vulnerable night situation, is absolutely ignorant especially now that "polygon warnings" are being used instead of the old "county warning" system. (Warnings are issued only in areas most likely affected, NOT issued for entire counties... this dramatically reduces the "crying wolf" factor, as only specific areas are warned)We need to change the Douglas County policy before something happens here as it did in SW-Missouri/NE Oklahoma in recent days. Food for thought- What kind of damage could an EF-2 tornado moving at 60mph with a 2 mile track do within Lawrence (or any town) city limits? Tornadoes can be rain wrapped day or night, are naturally more difficult to spot in the dark and are less likely to be spotted at 1AM, as most folks are in bed (= less people are out spotting) So to rely that heavily on spotter relay, especially given the variables in this particular situation, is absurd. Does that mean disregard what spotters have to say? absolutely not.

KsTwister 9 years, 10 months ago

Ksdivakat: If the NSW service has proven that advance warning saves lives then what part of this don't you understand? No you can't rely on what you cannot see, but when branches has taken out a families electricity, they are sound asleep in the middle of the the pitch dark night, then what would you recommend the parents go outside and look for themselves? Have you ever seen how quick a funnel can drop out of a cloud?? I didn't think so.

JerryStubbs 9 years, 10 months ago

Nobody is stopping Bob Newton from posting something here, but then I doubt that many people read this stuff anyway.

road_Runner 9 years, 10 months ago

"While they are establishinig 'delicate balance" I am going to keep checking NWS tomorrow afternoon, I don't trust Douglas county community leaders anymore. "Updated graphic: 21 is marked on my calendar now.

Erin Graham 9 years, 10 months ago

Kudos, KSA. Well stated. The ONLY reasonable justification for not sounding the sirens is that perhaps the EOC saw the bow echo structure as opposed to the traditional super-cell structure and thought the liklihood of anything tornadic was pretty slim and therefore, in a lapse of judgement, second-guessed the NWS's judgement (though even just looking at radar data.. reflectivity at several angles, velocity.. as the storm was occuring, NWS-Topeka was in the right on calling the warning)Now, if you want to desensitize people from being concerned when a tornado siren goes off, by all means sound it every time a squall line rolls through!

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

kstwiater, seriously, Im a storm chaser for the storm prediction center...of course I have.......and I can answer yours and monkeys question again with one line....How come there were only 2 people at the meeting?If you people REALLY wanted this policy come you werent at the meeting??Because my belief is that people really dont care about the policy, they just want to bitch, this is dangerous to the rest of the community....

kansassportsnutgal 9 years, 10 months ago

I would rather be warned than Not warned! So please when the NWS issues a warning the sirens should sound!Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry! It would have been horrible if somone would have died a few ago when Bob Newton decided Not to sound the sirens! He would not be able to live with himself!Safe than Sorry !!!!!

KsTwister 9 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I have 5 people who saw the cloud 1:45 am thereabouts, heard it, but was so dark (due to low dark cloud) that if it dropped a funnel we were scrambling for cover. So my position was that one individual had just received a call from a concerned family member that a trailer park had been hit in North Lawrence, and the lumber company was gone. Exaggerated but nonetheless the next morning paper held that to be more true than not. That guy was trying to make an educated decision what to tell us to do. What happened before the call ended had us running and thinking it was too late. Yep, that will make some emotions run high. At night, dark, high winds (90-115 mph + ) possible chance for damage, saw the hail, saw the horizontal rain.....what did they miss that we did not. Emotional, only because the dolts did not give many a warning although we got lucky in spite of them. How anyone could have seen a tornado in that cloud is beyond all of us. I don't care if an F5 barrels down in broad daylight at least you can take evasive action. Night is a different scenario. I have been in two tornadoes in Lawrence that reduced houses to ground level ---in the daytime. Several in other areas but that night a wrong choice was made. Very wrong. Not everyone can be in such a protected environment and so trusting of their own capability to escape anything the weather sends in. Sleep tight. They should have taken NWS warning because it was more protective of lives and property. Enough said.

melott 9 years, 10 months ago

A more serious concern is our poor signal coverage for weather radio, which we should be relying on when we are indoors. On this map, green means unreliable coverage due to low signal strength:

Dale Stringer 9 years, 10 months ago

Just think what the death toll would have been in Greensburg if the tornado syrens weren't sounded.

Danielle Brunin 9 years, 10 months ago

melott brings up an excellent point. We get terrible reception and my programmed SAME codes don't work for counties west of Douglas County, presumably because we receive a stronger signal from the Pleasant Hill NWS Office. The night in question, we got the Tornado watch renewal and severe thunderstorm warning, but not the tornado warning. Is there anyway that this can be improved?

Danielle Brunin 9 years, 10 months ago

ksdivacat,I'll answer why I wasn't at the meeting. I WAS WORKING! Other people work for a living. Several people have said that. Get off your high horse; you don't hold a monopoly on knowledge of public policy, emergency management, or storm forecasting. Geez! Furthermore, expand on your experience of being a storm chaser for the SPC. I use the SPC site quite frequently and I've never seen them refer to chasers. I thought that was the NWS's department.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 years, 10 months ago

Excellent remarks ksa. The sirens should be sounded when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for DG county. Simple enough for the idiots in the courthouse to comprehend. The only one down there that knows what they are doing is the county administrator. Thank you, Lynn

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

I suggest a nap then rammy! I could care less if your bored...move to another story then!

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago about this?? Why dont you email me and we can arrange a face to face meeting to discuss your theory of my screen name???The ball is in your court!

mistygreen 9 years, 10 months ago

Hey ksdivakat, just a few weeks ago I saw you passing yourself off as a "loving christian"....well honey, you don't seem to be acting all lovey dovey to everyone here. You must be one of those "fair weather" christians, only when it suits your purpose.To the others: sorry to be OT, but it had to be said.

road_Runner 9 years, 10 months ago

"ratgirl:.expand YOUR knowledge on storms!! I have repeatedly sited credentials, read other posts:and the SPC doesnt have storm chasers?? LMAO..please stop yourself!" While everyone is entitled to an opinion, I've been struggling with a response to your comment since I saw it. Respectfully, I have friends who work there and even I was unaware that they paid chasers now, especially since SPC is government operated and they have their own meteorologists who rotate between forecasting and chasing. I'd figured the concept of paying chasers would be more on the NSSL (National Severe Storms Laboratory) side since they are research oriented.People react and interpret different situations in different ways. Upon reading all the comments from the stories relating to this subject, there is one area that stands out more than others and that's a genuine concern for safety.Again, I understand where you are coming from in regards to the sirens and using other resources to rely on when a warning is issued. As monkeyspunk pointed out, not one has disagreed with this statement and it's a very valid and crucial point. Many here though feel that ALL the resources to warn people should be initiated when a warning is issued and this time around, that did not happen. Now, with that being said, do I feel the sirens should be sounded everytime the wind blows? No, of course not and others have pointed that out as well. I understand that some storms are more severe than others, especially when it comes to the possibility of tornadic storms and at times, they do need to be further evaluated, especially by storm spotters. They are absolutely fundamental to the warning system and I trust their judgment.

kits 9 years, 10 months ago

"I don't want it to go off every time a cloud comes out of the southwest," County Commissioner Bob Johnson said during Monday's commission meeting.His statement shows a lighthearted attitude towards the publics concern regarding our siren policy.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

KSA.."Response- They just bought two in January at a price of $17,000-$20,000"id be worried about that!!! LOLgive me a minute, and I can find some on it...its gonna take a minute, but I will get it!

Jim Phillips 9 years, 10 months ago

How about we disable your car's air bags since you already have seatbelts. You have one safety system, why do you need two? What's wrong with using the equipment we have for what it was intended for? Some of you people will prove Darwin correct.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

you can put a bow on it, sprinkle fairy dust on it and call it anything you want.......its still a baby raper!

JerryStubbs 9 years, 10 months ago

The weather service said about 100 people have died in U.S. twisters this year. This could become one of the deadliest tornado years in recent history.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

KSA.....I thought the other day that we were kindof on the same page, I thought you were looking at this realistically and not emotionally....I was wrong.So because the meeting was at 8 and not 6p.m only 2 people could show up eventhough there was 5 days notice....I guess people could not have used vaca time to attend the meeting to change the policy if it was so important.The fact that there wasnt a tornado in lawrence is irrelevant?? WHAT?? to early to be drinking KSA.....YOU are the one advocating sounding the sirens in the appropiate part of the county...which would NOT have been inside the city limits.....AND now your saying there was high winds so sound everytime there are winds...blow them sirens???By the way, what exactly is your education as far as storm prediction??Why dont you want to take responsibilty for YOUR own actions?? For your own life? for the life of your family??You know as well as I do that if the sirens malfunctioned in a tornado then every liberal looney would be on here bitching about that...cause thats what this town does...pass the buck, blame someone else, and by all means dont take responsibility for your own actions...leave it up to someone else!And ok, I will wait until wed night at the commish meeting and see how many people show up there....keep in mind there will be just as many people there who dont want them sounded everytime the wind blows as though who where is the medium??Also, you should really do research on sirens, there are not sirens out in the country and if everyone in the city wants more and wants them sounded then this will cause taxes to go up as these are not 20k a piece...that is the most asinine thing Ive heard yet!Read the article about the new walmart! Just a round about in lawrence costs 300k! and thats concrete slapped together to make traffic a nightmare!I pray for you and your family, and everyone else on here who do not want to take responsibility for themselves.....God help you if you are depending on anyone or anything other than yourselves in an actual tornado!

Zype 9 years, 10 months ago

"I don't want it to go off every time a cloud comes out of the southwest"That's not even what we're asking.Pay attention."Commissioners want to hear what the public thinks about the use of tornado sirens."Gee. That's a tough one.I'm pretty sure popular opinion is that if a tornado warning is issued, tornado sirens should go off.Wow. That wasn't so tough after all, was it now?

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

Yes KSA....please make sure you go with mistygreen to the meeting, I will be there and this will be the great thing .........KSA is the Kansas statute for a baby raper! Yeah you should take him with you misty, thats gonna help your position a bunch!!! LOL

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

ratgirl....expand YOUR knowledge on storms!! I have repeatedly sited credentials, read other posts...and the SPC doesnt have storm chasers?? LMAO..please stop yourself!The SPC is the #1 storm prediction center in the US, we work closely with NOAA and have 30+ years of documentation proving that sounding the sirens at the drop of a hat desensatizes get over it! Its true, even now when the sirens are sounded people step out on their porches and kids ride their bikes.Now I know that unless you have a job at mcdonalds then you have vacation time.....couldnt use an hour of that to show up at the meeting???If this is THAT important to you, or anyone else....if your family was that important to you, then you would have been there....again..pass the buck!

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

oh yeah, and it might rain today, so go put your ear to the window so you dont miss it in case the sirens dont go off when it rains!!!!!

mistygreen 9 years, 10 months ago

ksdivakat: I have no interest in meeting you f2f. As I stated before, I don't really care to know the story behind your screen name. It is afterall only a screen name.

mistygreen 9 years, 10 months ago

Oh boy here we go again, with the same old bull stanky we've heard before. KSA-you make valid and logical points, I hope you make it to the meeting on the 21st. I've marked my calander to be there.....unless the weather is bad...can't risk being away from my weather radio, and can't trust the EOC..

Poon 9 years, 10 months ago

I am a storm chaser, so I pretty much know everything about the weather. My most proud moment of my life had nothing to do with storms however. No, no, no, my biggest triumph in life was when I stood in Tiananmen Square and stopped a line of tanks by simply standing in front of them. Well, perhaps that wasn't me in the picture. I am certain there was sniper fire though.

igby 9 years, 10 months ago

If you look back in the LJW articles before the storm. One article stated that lighting hit the siren a few days before the storm. I think the question that should be ask is were the sirens fixed at the time of the storm. If not, it's understandable because parts sometime take time to order. If the system was down just tell the truth.

road_Runner 9 years, 10 months ago

A few things though occurred that night that can't be discounted and needs to be further evaluated.1. The strong rotation in the storm. When the storm was about 10 minutes outside of Lawrence and by Clinton Lake, it showed some strong rotation indicated by the SR-M radar. (Approx 120 knots: 65 knots outbound/ 55 knots inbound) I understand that storms vary greatly from minute to minute, however having that strong of a rotation in proximity to the city is a legitimate concern and the spotters were unable to detect it from the ground due to the poor conditions of the storm.2. The speed of the storm. It was moving 45-50mph that evening and it's terribly challenging keeping up with a storm like that, especially at night.3. The individual storm (not the line segment) had HP (High Precipitation) characteristics and didn't even bow out until it was closer to KC. HP's make it very difficult to detect rotation from the ground, let alone in the dark.4. A tornado did touch down in Douglas County and the spotters did not detect it. I want to emphasize here that I do not fault the wonderful spotters in anyway. It just happened to to be one of those nights where the conditions were horrible to see anything from ground level. I understand that the tornado was short-lived, however it still produced a tornado and was not reported.Overall, I am concerned though that based on the storm structure and conditions that night (which others here have pointed out as well), the sirens should have gone off and they did not. All I am asking is for the policy to re-evaluated after what happened and based on the conditions that night.

road_Runner 9 years, 10 months ago

ksdivakat (Anonymous) says:"I can also tell you this, having been down in se ks, ne ok, and SW MO for the last few days, and seeing the total devestation, I havent spoke to 1 person who mentioned anything about the sirens. Its not a concern, its not even a fleeting thought in their minds, some of them have lost everything."This comment strikes me as being a bit off. If you saw the devastation caused by the tornadoes last weekend, then you should know how absolutely critical and essential it is to warn of impending danger with EACH and EVERY resource available, including the sirens so individuals can take the necessary actions to reach safety, particularly in life threatening situations such as this. Seeing the complete destruction caused by Mother Nature is one of the most humbling things anyone can experience. Nothing (very few things) will bring someone back down to earth faster or have reality smacked into them quicker than seeing an area leveled by the force of nature and seeing the impact it has caused to individuals living within the community. After seeing something significant like this person, one often feels how important it is to warn communities more effeciently and effectively with all the warning tools available.I'm not surprised that anyone in the affected regions weren't talking about the sirens or it even crossed their minds; they were too busy picking up the pieces of their lives and trying to figure out where to go from there:.

mistygreen 9 years, 10 months ago

ksdivacat: everyone has the right to choose their screen nick whether we like it or not. Nor do we have to agree with them. It is afterall just a moniker, you know, just like ksdivacat. I don't really care to know what is behind that name, you've shown your true colors, at least to me. I see it in two different ways.1). Obviously the person is making some kind of statement. 2). It is just a screen nick, moniker, who really cares what they are trying to say. Finally, if I decided to "go with" your analogy and screen nick, I'd think you're a b*tch, but I see past the monikers, which you obviously cannot get past.

monkeyspunk 9 years, 10 months ago

ksdivakat said: "And by the way, whomever wrote that the sirens are 20k was wayyyy off base, those sirens are about 750k per siren. "From the Douglas County Commission Minutes of 6/18/2007:"The 2008 budget proposal includes three additional sirens at an approximate cost of $20,000 per siren."Thanks, come again.

ksdivakat 9 years, 10 months ago

mistygreen, no Im a real person, infaliable and human to the core, however, when I feel attacked I tend to get a touch fussy, as Im sure you would too!I will no longer engage in a conversation with someone who prides themselves and their handle on here as a baby raper....sorry, I just cant do it.So all this fussing and cussing and the sirens werent even working to sound off?? is that correct??My whole point this whole time has been this......people were absolutely reacting with emotion and not facts and still it is emotions and not facts, and unfortunately thats not gonna get anyone anywhere.Ask yourself how long this policy has been in effect?? Im assuming several years.I have a definate problem with people who do not want to take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones, thats my issue and has been all along, again, if its that important to people then why werent there more people at the meeting? and the whole I was at work excuse doesnt fly, there will be people at work next wed night too, but I bet if they want to come they will make arrangements with their jobs to come.I have repeated this sentiment over and over, and you can say all you want that nobody is saying they dont want to take responsibiity, but in fact that is exactly the case, and that mentality will get people killed, so yes its a sore subject for me, but I will say this, I will stop fussing about it and let the chips fall where they may, I dont care one way or another as it doesnt affect me personally, but I think you are in for a losing battle and its going to cause alot of discontent, but Ive said it 100 times, if thats what the people want then the commission is bound to go with the majority, and what if the majority wants the policy to stand?? Do you still do nothing but complain that it wasnt changed??I wish you luck and will see you at the meeting. I hope it all works out the way you want it too.

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