Riley County activates outdoor warning system

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:26 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - The outdoor warning sirens were sounded in the southern portion of Riley County this last Saturday in response to a severe thunderstorm warning.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warning included damaging straight winds of 70+ MPH expected to impact Ogden and the southern portion of Manhattan in Riley County. Neighboring counties in the path of this storm reported significant tree damage, damage to highway signs, and hail. Typically, sirens are sounded when an imminent threat is expected, including hail larger than golf ball size, wind speeds greater than 75 MPH, a wall cloud, or rotation spotted in person or on radar that indicates a tornado.

Some confusion resulted for the public, who are more familiar with sirens associated with tornado warnings. During a tornado warning, the outdoor warning system is activated for three minutes, then paused to prevent overheating. After a brief rest period of three to five minutes, they are activated for another three-minute period. This process continues until the tornado warning expires. Additional confusion occurred for those who heard the sirens but did not receive any other notification. NWS has the ability to target emergency warnings to the specific areas they believe are under threat. However, the siren activation is more widespread, and the warning areas did not match up.

Emergency management director, Russel Stukey, said people should not just rely on sirens and always take precaution. “Seek shelter in a good sturdy building and then immediately search additional information from your local sources such as radio, tv, know weather radios, apps on your phone and find out what the sirens are actually blown for whether if it was natural hazard or a man made hazard,” said Stukey.

In the future, Riley County Emergency Management (RCEM) plans to send additional Everbridge text, phone, and email notifications to everyone in the range of the sirens to communicate the details of the warning. This month, public education will include awareness of the notification system, encouragement to sign up for Everbridge warnings, as well as advice about safety plans and emergency kits. In addition, RCEM will share specific details about siren activation.