Tornado Sirens are not just for Tornados

Just read the history of tornado sirens or better known as Civil defense siren;

civil defense siren (also known as an air-raid siren or tornado siren) is a siren used to provide an emergency population warning to the general population of approaching danger. It is sometimes sounded again to indicate the danger has passed. Some sirens (especially within small towns) are also used to call the volunteer fire department when needed. Initially designed to warn city dwellers of air raids in World War II, they were later used to warn of nuclear attack and natural destructive weather patterns such as tornadoes. The generalized nature of sirens led to many of them being replaced with more specific warnings, such as the broadcast-based Emergency Alert System and the Cell Broadcast-based Wireless Emergency Alerts and EU-Alert mobile technologies.

Well if that wasn’t a natural destructive weather pattern Thursday night I don’t know what it was? I did get alerts on my phone (which was good because my electricity went out) but does it really hurt to sound them even if it is not a tornado? That’s crying wolf according to Mayor TenHaken;

When asked Friday by reporters if the city should re-evaluate its policy, TenHaken, responded: “Will we look at the policy? Sure. But you can see where they start to lose their effectiveness when you cry wolf too often and use the sirens for multiple purposes,” he said.

That is probably why they don’t plow the streets much anymore, they wouldn’t want citizens to expect safe streets in the winter 🙂

Let’s be clear, the sirens ARE for weather and other emergencies. I don’t think anyone would have been upset if they sounded the alarm. They act like turning them on is like launching a nuclear weapon. They act like every time the train blows its whistle while crossing an intersection is just crying wolf, wonder why people haven’t just stopped ignoring them? This is what happens when you have cruise control government.

Besides, who is in charge of flipping the switch? Sounds like this guy, who had an excuse also;

Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith said activating the sirens too often could lead to complacency and confusion, adding that the policy not to sound them during non-tornado weather events is supported by commonly-supported best practices in the emergency management and meteorology industries.

Uh, no it is NOT, it varies from community to community;

1. What does it mean when I hear the outdoor warning sirens? 

In short, it means that something life-threatening is happening and you should go indoors and get more information.   The specific guidelines (tornado, hail ,wind, etc.) for sounding sirens varies by jurisdiction, so check with your local community to find out the specifics if you are interested.

In other words, more excuses.


#1 Very Stable Genius on 05.14.22 at 10:17 am

Some say derecho, some say haboob, but I say if it looks like a tornado, then use the damn sirens. Tornadoes touch down here and there like those heads which pop-up with that kids’ arcade game Whac A Mole and the sirens aren’t used (Sometimes (Someday?)) until a funnel, or known echo, is confirmed, but when you have a known major storm coming at you, that looks very unusual and menacing, then why not use the sirens? I don’t think warning about a storm like that is crying wolf or creating such a future attitude. Just how sacred are these sirens anyhow? Frankly, this all reminds me of the big board in ‘Dr. Strangelove’:

( and Woodstock adds: “I like the new weather classification that our Mayor came-up with”… “Now, we have ‘Watch’, ‘Warning’, and ‘Beef Stew'”… “I can’t wait until Jay uses that one on TV (… “Yes, doppler radar is now beginning to pick-up an echo ( “or is that a hook?”)… that looks like Grandma’s beef stew'” …. ) …. #BoutiqueGrocer #IMissDopplerDorothyTheMiniVan )

#2 VSG on 05.14.22 at 10:29 am

Come to think of it, when those sirens were first implemented back in 1971, there were two types of siren noises. One meant a tornado, while another sound meant a civil defense alert, like we have 25 minutes until the Russians will blow us to smithereens. So, do we still have those two capabilities, and if not, why not? And if we do, then we should be educated on the two sounds once again and make a point to educate everyone that the “civil defense” sound is for civil defense issues and major storms that are not tornadoes.

( and Woodstock adds: “I think this is just one big generational issue, if you ask me”…. “It speaks to the innate snobbery of younger folks and their total dependency upon smartphones and expecting everyone else to have the same capability when it comes to storm warnings”… “Although, ironically, when the three tornadoes hit us in ’19, the fine folks of Taupeville not only had their smartphones but they also got the only siren alerts in town”…. (…”Come to think of it, maybe it’s like voting boxes just south of 57th”…. )

#3 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 05.14.22 at 10:43 am

And the old timer on the porch said: “Yah, I remember back in ’22, when that beef stew rolled in here”…. “I thought for sure we were all goners”….

#4 "Woodstock" on 05.14.22 at 10:50 am

“And is there an even more menacing level of that ‘Beef Stew’, which is known as ‘Chunky Style’?”…. (… “That would probably be when stuff really starts to get thrown around here”…. ( ….”Ya, ‘Chunky Style’ is probably when winds get up to ludicrous speed”…. ))

#5 "Woodstock" on 05.14.22 at 10:58 am

“Come to think it also, we should have three siren classifications with a total separate one for civil defense, because I think Putin would still love to blow us to smithereens”…. (….”‘Smithereens’, that’s such a great word”…. “I need to used it again more often”…. (…”Frankly, it’s better than ‘Beef Stew'”…. ))

#6 VSG on 05.14.22 at 11:03 am

Didn’t you love that press conference yesterday, when the National Weather Service guy was explaining all of the science behind Thursday’s storm, and I think he even used the word “science” in his explanations, as our Governor, who was standing behind him, was nodding her head in total agreement to him? So, let me get this right, our Governor embraces science when it blows to smithereens her home town of Castlewood, but not so much when it comes to a pandemic and impacting others, is that right? #ThePoliticsOfBeefStew

#7 Scott D Hudson on 05.14.22 at 12:05 pm

I always laugh when the excuses include how radio and TV gave alerts. Honestly i don’t know anybody who listens to local radio anymore. As for TV, I was actually watching a cable channel at the time. A weather alert broke into programming for another county a few minutes before the storm hit us, but never for Minnehaha. I only knew of its real existence because a friend in Kentucky DM’d me.

#8 VSG on 05.14.22 at 4:06 pm

Once again our local political leadership has proven to us that government is not for the people, but rather for the few, the developers. That’s why they are reluctant to plow, sand, or sweep our streets as well. These political leaders are suppose to be public servants and not just spokesmen who hold the reigns of power for the few, the developers.

#9 "Woodstock" on 05.14.22 at 4:13 pm

“If KELO brings back that mini-van doppler radar vehicle anytime soon, I think they should change the name from Doppler Dorothy to Doppler Dua”…. “AND it should have a siren attached to it, too, that plays ‘Levitating’ during a tornado or beef stew”… 😉

#10 D@ily Spin on 05.14.22 at 5:16 pm

This type of storm is known as a Derecho. Not a tornado because not swirling. Not a Hurricane because doesn’t start and land from the ocean in the northern hemisphere. Not a Typhoon because that’s a hurricane in the Southern Hemisphere. Not a Divorce because that’s years in court with an ex-wife. Derecho’s are strong winds like for other storms. Characteristically, they form suddenly when there’s a 20 degree or more temperature change along a front. Derechos occur fast and are hard to identify with radar. Sirens are for noon on fridays when it’s not daylight savings time. Also, it’s advanced warning for when ex-wives are headed north from Texas.

#11 Sirens on 05.15.22 at 7:46 am

Don’t forget sirens were used here to enforce sundown laws. If you were not Christian white, the Jim Crow laws / rules were in place to notify the offenders to get out of town off the street. Anyone of a darker complexion or wrong religion could be arrested for not being Dutch Reform or more excuses. Northwest Iowa small towns would ring their church bells at 6:00pm to clear the streets.

This is the mentality of our mayor and he does not even have enough smarts to know where his ignorance comes from.

#12 Sirens on 05.15.22 at 8:04 am

There is a stigma with sirens in many small town people who lived by the dangers of church bells ringing or the sirens at supper time signalling they were still telling the wrong people to get off the streets.

African Americans were not the only minority group not allowed to live in white towns. One example, according to Loewen, is that in 1870, Chinese people made up one-third of Idaho’s population. Following a wave of violence and an 1886 anti-Chinese convention in Boise, almost none remained by 1910.?

The towns of Minden, Nevada, and Gardnerville, Nevada, had an ordinance from 1917 to 1974 that required Native Americans to leave the towns by 6:30 p.m. each day. A whistle, later a siren, was sounded at 6 p.m. daily alerting Native Americans to leave by sundown. In 2021, the state of Nevada passed a law prohibiting the appropriation of Native American imagery by the mascots of schools, and the sounding of sirens that were once associated with Sundown ordinances. Despite this law, Minden has continued to play its siren, claiming it as being a nightly tribute to first responders.

People like TenHaken are so clueless to the roots of their hatreds based on the bible teachings of their religions based on ignorances.

#13 LJL on 05.15.22 at 8:16 am

This constant need to blame someone for everything is a societal sickness. If you didn’t know there was a potentially dangerous storm approaching, your an idiot or a child.

There was no tornado hence to tornado siren. Life happens, accept that and grow up.

#14 Blasphemo on 05.15.22 at 11:12 am

We have a City Council to make policy. We need a mayor to administer day-to-day operations of city departments, and as a situational authority. PTH’s focus on developers, TIFFs, $1 sweetheart municipal property leases and influencing municipal elections illustrate how removed he is from quality of life issues for average SF residents – and his inability to rise to the challenge of quickly evolving emergency situations.

Where City Hall is concerned, The Buck Stops With Him. In spite of the 2019 tornadoes teachable moment siren debacle, he biffed it AGAIN this time. His statements Friday were pathetic attempts to deflect responsibility, and Emergency Manager Regan Smith goose stepped alongside the boss with inane rationalizations.

PTH’s remarks were patronizing if not demeaning, and seriously call into question his judgment where matters of public safety are concerned. TenHaken said “no one was caught off guard by Thursday’s storms” & “…seeing the sky that looks like beef stew, that tells you you should not be out right now.” Most long established residential areas of SF are dense with mature trees, and DON’T have a view of the horizon. For many city residents that “beef stew” sky and 100 mph winds were on top of them in an instant without an opportunity to see it approaching. A SF woman died from a falling tree; a Wentworth woman died when flying debris penetrated her car window. The COSF’ own ‘Tornado Safety Guide’ says, “Outdoor Warning Sirens are activated only when Imminent threat to life or property exists.” 2 area deaths & all the area property damage didn’t qualify as an “imminent threat” to justify activating those sirens??!! I bet those two ladies would say they were fatally ‘caught off guard’.

KELO-TV interrupted their programming with storm coverage well in advance of the storm hitting SF. Dakota News Now didn’t. The KELO weatherman characterized the warning issued for the SF area as one “he did not recall ever having been issued before.” The National Weather Service equated the wind strength to an EF-0 or EF-1 tornado. And PTH is splitting hairs about whether the winds were straight or swirling? That’s clown sh*t.

As for PTH saying “But you can see where they start to lose their effectiveness when you cry wolf too often and use the sirens for multiple purposes,” and Smith chiming in, “activating the sirens too often could lead to complacency and confusion, adding that the policy not to sound them during non-tornado weather events is supported by commonly-supported best practices in the emergency management and meteorology industries”? Pretty ironic assertions, given the COSF has been the most guilty of bungling that, too! Sometime w/in the last handful of years, the sirens went off accidentally on a clear day & managers scrambled for many minutes to turn them off. Just 2-3 weeks ago, the sirens sounded uncharacteristically on a WEDNESDAY morning. Keloland news reported at noon that same day that it had been an exercise among various disaster response departments. Oh…so THAT couldn’t have been scheduled along with a regular Friday siren test, to prevent “ complacency and confusion” from sirens going off at unexpected times – and for test purposes only? Good grief. Pure Keystone Cops.

#15 Further Fear & Loathing on 05.15.22 at 11:29 am

Note to myself: If there is a dangerous storm approaching, then I am on my own, but if it is a tornado and not a derecho or haboob, then local government might give me an advanced notice with a siren…. Got it!

#16 Fearing the Fuhrer & More on 05.15.22 at 11:32 am

Didn’t Mobridge have an ordinance at one time, that stated that if more than three natives crossed the Missouri bridge, headed to Mobridge, that it was to be considered a war party?

I do miss the Wayne Township siren, however, at noon each day…. That meant it was time to eat!