Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Wichita area is undergoing a huge storm siren upgrade this week just in time for Severe Weather Awareness Week. The first test of the county's storm sirens went off without a hitch.
A couple of years ago, the National Weather Service changed its warning structure. It used to warn an entire county, even though a storm or tornado might only be affecting a small corner. Those days are long gone, and now the county siren system is also catching up to the technology.
"We're converting from World War Two-level technology into the 21st century by taking our outdoor warning devices digital," said Randy Duncan, Sedgwick County Emergency management Director.
At one centralized computer, Sedgwick County's tornado siren system can be activated with the push of a few buttons.
"We'll actually be able to target the warning to that area that is specifically at risk for the tornado," Duncan explained.
So if the storm is affecting Derby or Haysville, you won't hear the sirens in Andale and Colwich.
"Over the years, sociologists have told us and the National Weather Service, the more specific we can be with the warnings, the more likely people are to take action designed to save lives and that of their family and loved ones," Duncan said. "So this is the evolution in that accuracy of warning."
You're probably familiar with the old, yellow rotating sirens that have been in place for many years. Today, crews were installing a new siren near downtown Wichita. All of the new sirens are expected to be installed by the end of the month. The upgrade will actually result in fewer sirens across the county.
"We're taking some of those out because they're already covered by devices that have a larger effective area for warning," Duncan said. "So we're making our system efficient by removing some of those small ones."