Confusion over sounding tornado sirens in Elkhart County - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Confusion over sounding tornado sirens in Elkhart County

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Tornado sirens went off twice in a matter of a week in Elkhart County.

The latest was Monday night in Goshen, but there were no tornadoes.

With no severe weather watches or warnings, people started asking why they were going off.

"I was confused about that because we didn't see anything on the news channels," says Chris Meyer of Goshen. While confused, Meyer says he still took action.

"The voice came on saying there was an emergency and to take cover. So we did. Then we found out later we didn't really have anything touch down," says Meyer.

Others weren't as quick to act.

"They're doing it every now and then and more and more often. It's starting to become a habit," says Goshen resident Sal Macias.

Just last week a cloud, which experts say turned out to be a beaver tail, not a tornado, prompted the alarms to sound.

Elkhart County emergency dispatch training supervisor, Rebecca Schnoepzow says any time someone calls dispatch siting a tornado touched down, the sirens go off. Then, trained professionals take a closer look.

Monday's alarm turned out to be nothing serious.

"We're in the same situation in which we depend on people to tell us what's going on, but we also verify and check that with radar and our current understanding of the atmosphere before we actually go out and actually start issuing warnings," says Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michael Lewis.

The National Weather Service says meteorologists are careful to only issue watches and warnings when life-threatening weather is anticipated.

The NWS tries to avoid what it calls the "Cry Wolf Syndrome."
Experts say that could have played a part in the response to warnings right before the Joplin, Missouri tornado hit.

"There was anecdotal evidence that the sirens had been going off so frequently there that was a desensitization that occurred. I'm not saying that's happening here, but it is certainly a concern of ours, especially when we start issuing those watches and warnings," says Lewis.

Elkhart County emergency dispatch says it has to trust callers and err on the side of caution.

"I think that's a good thing. It's better to be safe than sorry," says Meyer.

Others are a little leery.

"Find out if it's something serious and then ring it. Instead of a pre-warning," says Macias.

Schnoepzow says no recent events have prompted any changes in protocol. It's been this way for years.

 

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