BAY CITY, MI – The sky suddenly turned an ominous dark shade in the early evening hours of Tuesday, Aug. 24 and fierce winds began kicking up dust in Bay County.
Shortly afterwards, the wail of an emergency siren could be heard echoing throughout the area as a severe thunderstorm raced through the county.
Although no official tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service (NWS), the sirens in Bay County’s Outdoor Public Warning System went off to alert residents of a potential threat in the skies.
“We were alerted by several first responder agencies that they were witnessing funnel clouds/tornados in several parts of the county,” said Ryan Manz, Bay County emergency management coordinator. “Due to the unpredictable paths of these storms we activate all of the sirens whenever there is a threat.”
Manz said Tuesday’s storms downed trees and powerlines throughout the county, mainly north of Bay City.
He added the county has received had no reports of structures that were damaged.
Manz explained there are multiple reasons that the sirens in Bay County’s Outdoor Public Warning System, which is what residents heard on Tuesday, can be activated, such as the following:
- The National Weather Service issues a severe weather, tornado, high wind, severe thunderstorm, or flash flood “warning” for our area.
- A trained Weather Spotter detects severe weather in our area
- Emergency response personnel detect severe weather in our area
- An “Evacuation Warning” is deemed necessary by appropriate law enforcement agency or fire department personnel due to an imminent threat related to a chemical release, hazardous materials release, or an act of terrorism.
- During times of general emergency, as deemed necessary by appropriate law enforcement agency or fire department personnel.
- A “Post Disaster Warning” Public Address announcement, listing shelter locations and first aid stations, immediately following an event.
Bay County’s Outdoor Public Warning System is comprised of 19 sirens, Manz said, 17 of which are mechanical wail sirens and 2 in Veteran’s Memorial Park which are digital sirens.
The sirens cover the more densely populated areas of the county including the Pinconning and Auburn, Village of Linwood, most of Bay City as well as the surrounding townships.
Manz added that the sirens cover around 70% of the population of Bay County.
During an emergency activation the digital sirens in Vet’s Park in Bay City will sound for at least two rounds of the warning message followed by the wail sirens for no less than 3 minutes. The wail may be longer if the threat necessitates it.
For those that hear the sirens when out and about in Bay County, Manz offered the following advice on what to do.
“The most important thing to know about the Outdoor Public Warning System is that it is just that, a method to warn people that are currently outdoors,” said Manz. “The sirens are not meant to be easily heard inside a dwelling. When the sirens sound, everyone should go inside for safety. Then watch, read, or listen to local media to find out what the developing situation is.”
Manz reminded residents they should have an emergency kit ready to go and be prepared just in case severe weather or other emergencies take place.
“Build a kit (enough resources to survive 3 days), make a plan (evacuation routes, rally points etc.), be informed (know where/when/how to receive information.) Know what you are going to do if severe weather impacts your location. Have multiple ways to receive emergency weather alerts,” he said. “Every person that is personally prepared to survive an emergency is one less person that first responders have to help, thereby freeing them up to save someone else.”
The sirens undergo monthly tests, during which the sirens will sound for no more than one minute.
“We test the sirens at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month for no more than 1 minute,” said Manz. “The only exception to that rule is if there is inclement weather in the area. If we experience inclement weather on that Wednesday the test is canceled.”
Click here for more information on Bay County’s Outdoor Public Warning System.
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