MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – When portions of Madison County were under a tornado warning Thursday night, several outdoor warning sirens remained silent.
For Madison County EMA officers, a tornado warning in February is news enough in itself.
“This is my first time having snow and tornadoes back to back,” says emergency management officer Paige Colburn. “I’ve had snow and flooding on the same day but never snow and tornadoes within a week of each other.”
Several sirens alerted in the far northwest corner of Madison County near the Limestone County line did not sound. But EMA officials want to remind you the name of system is the outdoor warning siren system.
“Outdoor is in the name,” Colburn reiterates, “And that’s because these sirens are developed and maintained for people who are on playgrounds, people on golf courses for example and most especially for people who are in their cars.”
The most typical times for tornadoes in the Tennessee Valley are between 4 and 6 pm, when most people are on the roads. It is situations like these when outdoor weather sirens can be effective.
“And we certainly hope people weren’t outside during the wind and the rain at 10 o’clock last night,” Colburn says.
Only 8 to 10 sirens were near the tornado warning polygon Thursday night. Sirens are really only meant to alert people within a mile radius outdoors, be that as it may, it’s the EMA’s responsibility and primary disaster mitigation mission to deal with maintenance of outdoor warning sirens.
“When we have reports that sirens didn’t sound like last night, then we have two different crews who go out and deal with those sirens, to find out if it’s a radio issue, a software issue, a hardware issue,” Colburn explains.
But officials urge you to rely on totally different technology to keep you safe indoors or out.
“We remind everyone to get a NOAA Weather radio and this weekend is a great time to get one because it is the tax-free weekend for the city of Huntsville for all disaster preparedness things and I really hope people go out and take advantage of that.”
Items like batteries, generators, flashlights, and tarps are exempt from the tax-free holiday. You can find a full list of tax exempt items on the Alabama Department of Revenue’s website.