Chief Meteorologist Jeff Cox Sounds Off on the Silence of Tornado Sirens Monday Night
Following Monday night's severe weather, many Bibb county residents have expressed concerns as to why the tornado sirens didn't sound, this following the National Weather Service's confirmation that an EF-1 tornado did indeed touch down in south Bibb County.
Chief Meteorologist Jeff Cox wrote the following description of Monday night's events and his thoughts on why the sirens didn't sound and why he feels it's ok they didn't sound:
During our coverage of Monday night's storms, the initial line of storms, which was the worst part of the system, was moving to the east at over 40 mph. It only took the line of storms roughly 15 minutes to pass through all of Bibb County. During that short time span, there was no indication of rotation during our analysis using StormTrack TITAN Radar.
Using TITAN, we can examine different levels of the atmosphere. There might be rotation aloft but nothing reaching the surface. However, to complete an entire scan, from top to bottom, it takes approximately 7 minutes. In the event of Monday night's storm, as it rolled through Bibb County, we got a maximum of two complete scans.
The confirmed tornado had a short damage path length - only 1.1 miles. After some simple math, that path length for a tornado that was moving at 40 mph would mean that the twister was only on the ground for just less than 2 minutes. When a complete scan takes 7 minutes and the tornado is only on the ground for 2 minutes, it becomes nearly impossible to capture and analyze any rotation that existed. That explains why there was no indication of rotation on radar.
As for why the sirens didn't sound in Bibb County - they are only activated when a tornado warning is issued. There was no tornado warning issued, but as described above, there was no indication that a warning should have been issued. I support the National Weather Service's decision to not issue a tornado warning and I support the Bibb County EMA's decision to not sound the sirens. If you sound them too often, it becomes a case of "the girl who cried wolf" - residents would get to the point of ignoring the sirens because they would assume nothing was there.
Bottom line - if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, the only thing missing is a verified tornado. Consider the storm dangerous and one that you should take shelter from until it passes. And for future events that pass through at night, as did this system, make sure to have a NOAA Weather Radio with an alert feature that will wake you up. They truly are life saving devices!