Champaign County sheriff changes policy for tornado sirens

July 7, 2018 by  

Dan Walsh, the sheriff of Champaign County, has modified the criteria the county uses in deciding whether or not to activate the tornado warning sirens in Champaign, Savoy, and Urbana.

The decision came after west Champaign homes were damaged in a recent storm. Sirens did not sound in that event, according to an article in the News-Gazette.

Walsh said the criteria used in the past to determine whether or not to activate the sirens included if a trained spotter had seen a tornado, if the National Weather Service was able to use radar to confirm that a tornado was heading toward any or all of the three cities, or if damage reports were received by the Emergency Management Agency that suggested a tornado was on the way. Sheriff Walsh has decided to add a fourth instance: sirens will sound if a trained spotters see a cloud spinning in the air. This is called a ‘wall cloud with rotation’.

He added that sirens will sound when there is an imminent threat of a tornado only, not simply when conditions are suitable for storms to develop. This is because tornadoes can form and cause major damage without warning, so using the sirens whenever a tornado might develop could lead to sounding them too frequently.

Emergency procedures like this are of great importance, so officials could work with a flyer printing company to devise a mailer for residents, informing them of the changes.