During Tuesday’s severe weather, sirens in Oklahoma City were activated under a new policy for the first time.
Only the northeast side of Oklahoma City had sirens ringing on Tuesday when there was a tornado warning. This is a new policy that the city council adopted in December.
Under the old policy, sirens were activated throughout all of Oklahoma County even if the tornado threat was isolated. Now, it is divided into nine sectors. Oklahoma City’s emergency manager, Frank Barnes, says they activate sirens only when the National Weather Service declares a tornado warning.
On Tuesday, NWS sent a tornado warning out for the northeast side, but not the rest of the city. Barnes said, “As a result, we had about a 98 percent reduction in the over-warning or false warning on that night.”
This is concerning to some residents.
Curtis Pinnick lives in southwest Oklahoma City. He saw a wall cloud in his backyard. That turned into the EF-0 tornado in Mustang on Tuesday. When Pinnick was outside, he said he did not hear sirens and is worried about the lack of warning for the future.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why are we not getting a tornado siren?” asked Pinnick.
To answer Pinnick’s question, Barnes says NWS did not issue a tornado warning for the southwest side, so with or without the new policy, the sirens would not have sounded from the Mustang tornado.
Regardless, Pinnick says he disagrees with the new policy. He would rather have over-warning with a tornado siren than no warning at all. He said, “Things move so fast and the tornadoes move so fast. I just don’t see the benefit of changing it.”
Barnes says the city stands by this new policy. They believe it will be better for residents in the long run.