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Amarillo OEM: Warning sirens are for more than just tornadoes

During severe weather season here in the Panhandle, you’ve likely heard the outdoor warning...
During severe weather season here in the Panhandle, you’ve likely heard the outdoor warning sirens.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - During severe weather season here in the Panhandle, you’ve likely heard the outdoor warning sirens.

The sirens have been used in the City of Amarillo and throughout the Panhandle for decades to keep everyone safe.

The purpose of the sirens it to warn citizens who are outside of inclement weather like tornadoes and hail storms.

“We’re having to overcome the stigma that they’re tornado sirens,” said Chip Orton, director of Emergency Management. “Really they should be called shelter in place sirens. That’s what they’re really meant to do is to alert people who are outside and say, ‘Hey, something is going on. Go inside and figure out what it is.’”

The stigma comes from sirens being used to previously warn of tornadoes. However, now their purpose is to warn of other dangers that may be heading your way.

“Back in the day when we didn’t have TV and radio, if was kind of the primary means of getting a warning out that there was a tornado,” said Chief Meteorologist ‘Doppler’ Dave Oliver. “That’s not the case anymore. These sirens are not supposed to be the first warning. These sirens are designed for people that aren’t getting warnings other ways.”

For example, the sirens were sounded in Amarillo last weekend due to a large hail threat.

“If a tornado warning was issued, they would sound the sirens. That isn’t how they are used today. They are used to alert any type of significant emergency, and as we’ve seen recently, they opted to sound the sirens when large hail was a threat,” continued Doppler Dave.

Another reason the sirens may be used is a hazardous spill in a neighborhood.

“There are quite a few hazardous materials such as chlorine that if they were out and your breathe that in, it can really hurt someone,” said Orton. “Again, same concept. Sirens are in this educational piece to be something is going on outside.”

Another reason you may hear these sirens would be something out of the norm at Pantex.

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