Monday, November 18, 2019

Colleyville and Keller Outdoor Warning Systems leave Southlake residents with questions

Early Sunday morning, several Southlake residents heard outdoor warning sirens inside their homes.  Although severe weather was not in the area, the sirens could clearly be heard inside Southlake homes.

The City’s facebook page saw postings starting at about 7:25 a.m.:  “Was I dreaming or were the tornado sirens going off at 3:30 am?” – Lynn O’Connor Lindblad.

“We learned from Colleyville that they were experiencing problems with their Outdoor Warning System (OWS),” said Southlake Fire Chief Michael Starr.  “Their sirens sounded for about 15 minutes early Sunday and then again around 9:30 p.m. They are looking into the problem and have told us they are working to solve it.”

The City learned about the problem Sunday morning, but didn’t learn until later who had set them off.  “We are sorry for the inconvenience this incident caused, and it’s good for our residents to be curious when you hear them, Starr said.  “We do want our residents to know that if we set our Outdoor Warning System off, our procedure is to notify all residents through our Connect-CTY system of the activation to prevent this kind of confusion.”

Meantime on Sunday night, as the thunderstorm rolled through, the City of Keller sounded its Outdoor Warning System.  Television news reports indicate the sirens went off around 8:00 p.m.

“Each City has criteria for setting off its sirens,” said Starr.  “The criteria are based off regional guidelines set by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.  While the conditions here in Southlake did not warrant sounding the Outdoor Warning System, it is possible that conditions in Keller did.”

Southlake resident Ann Stewart also posted to the City’s facebook page and asked for more communication when the Outdoor Warning System sounds:  “The question that has arisen for me is what should Southlake citizens do when we hear a siren? What is the process?”

Southlake DPS recently spoke at a City Council meeting about emergency management and what people should be aware of during severe weather event.  It included information about outdoor warning sirens:

“The outdoor system is designed to alert people who are outdoors that severe weather could be on the way,” said DPS Director Jim Blagg.  Blagg also reminded people that the best way to ensure you are warned inside your home is to buy a NOAA weather radio, and prepare family emergency kits and emergency plans.

“We make every attempt to communicate during severe weather through social media, City websites, and even send out automated phone calls when necessary,” said Blagg on Monday.  “With every event we learn something new, and when the next severe event comes around, we will put that knowledge to work to help keep the public informed.

OWS Activation Criteria

  • NWS issues a Tornado Warning or Severe Thunderstorm Warning with “Destructive winds in excess of 70 mph (or higher) are likely with this storm” for the immediate area.
  • Trained storm spotters have reported a tornado
  • Hail measuring 1.25 inches in diameter or greater
  • Hazardous Condition such as a “gas cloud” or “toxic plume” from a fire, technological hazard, or terrorist event.