Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cold air what now?

Archer and I were playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 this afternoon when I suddenly heard the city's emergency sirens going off. That usually means a tornado, but the storms of earlier in the day had passed through hours before, and there was sun peeking through the clouds out of our front window.

I hopped online to try to find out what was going on. Our weather radio hadn't sounded any alarm, and the Weather Channel didn't show any warnings for our zip code. Yet the local newspaper's Twitter feed claimed that there was a tornado a few miles away from our location.

Pretty soon the phone rang -- the crisis notification system at the university telling us to take shelter. It still looked perfectly normal out of our windows, birds singing and sun shining.

After about fifteen minutes, LCDOnline posted that the fire department couldn't find any damage, and that their staff photographer saw no evidence of touchdown at the site of the reports. A reader sent in a photograph of the "tornado." But the weatherman down in Little Rock debunked the whole notion, saying that what everyone saw was not a tornado but a "cold air funnel."

I like being informed, and I'm glad I have multiple sources of information whenever something perplexing goes down. But I dislike being placed on high alert too frequently. I wonder what the procedure is for sounding the emergency sirens in town? Does any report of a funnel cloud do it, or normally is the National Weather Service involved? Presumably the university alert system was simply following the city's lead -- which again raises the question of what threshold of credibility a threat has to meet in order to activate the whoop-whooping and the take-cover-immediately-ing?

It's not that I'm mad about the sirens and the calls this afternoon. I'd just like some confidence that I'm not going to be called into fight-or-flight mode everytime somebody sees something they think is a tornado. There's got to be a point where "better safe than sorry" changes into "the boy who cried wolf."

1 comment:

Ali said...

Did you see the video of the funnel, though? Sure did look like a tornado. I'd rather they overreact a bit in this case. Of course, we went through the same thing you did when we heard the sirens--checked the weather channel and local news--and found nothing. Funny that a siren isn't enough to make me go hang out in the bathroom (with a perplexed baby)--I have to see danger on multiple media for me to really worrry. :)