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The original item was published from 6/22/2018 3:12:55 PM to 7/7/2018 12:00:02 AM.

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Posted on: June 22, 2018

[ARCHIVED] What to do when the outdoor warning siren sounds

Saturday Thunderstorm

MUSCATINE Iowa – The outdoor warning sirens were activated in Muscatine County Thursday afternoon after a funnel cloud was spotted near the intersection of Tipton Road and 155th Street by a trained weather observer. Although the funnel cloud did not touch down, the visual evidence of rotation was enough to qualify for activating the warning system without an official statement from the National Weather Service.

“When you hear the outdoor warning sirens, it is time to move indoors and check local media for further information,” Jerry Ewers, Muscatine Fire Chief, said. “The sirens are just one part of a larger notification system.”


The outdoor sirens is a system intended to notify residents outside of their homes or places of business that severe weather is imminent. But it is just one part of a system that includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR), broadcast radio, television, and cable providers that use the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) systems, telephonic notification services, and digital message boards along highways.

According to the Iowa Emergency Management Association (IEMA) the sole purpose of outdoor warning sirens is for the protection of life. Hearing an outdoor warning siren is a call to take immediate life-saving action and the most desired individual action is to take shelter.

“Get inside and then get information” is the recommendation of emergency management professionals.

Muscatine County offers alert notification through ALERT IOWA, a mass notification and emergency messaging system hosted by the Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management Department. Residents can sign up for the types of alerts they would like to receive and select the best way to receive those messages.

The Muscatine County Emergency Management Association highly recommends that residents keep a weather radio with a battery backup in their homes for use during times of inclement weather.

The standard operating procedure for activation of the outdoor sirens includes:

  • The sirens are activated for severe thunderstorms when the NWS issues a severe thunderstorm warning or a trained spotter reports winds of 70 mph or greater and/or golf ball size hail or larger. Hail begins to break windows when it reaches or exceeds golf ball size and winds of 70 mph or greater are enough to break large branches and small trees.
  • The sirens are activated for tornadoes when the NWS issues a tornado warning and/or a trained spotter reports a tornado or funnel cloud.
  • The sirens can also be activated for non-weather emergencies (hazmat incident, terrorism, nuclear emergency, etc.) that pose a threat to those outdoors and require action to protect life.

When the NWS issues a severe thunderstorm watch or a tornado watch it is a notification to residents that conditions exist that severe weather is possible and residents should be prepared if a warning is issued. If the sirens sound … get inside and get informed.

“We have a county wide warning system so although the weather may be fine in one area, it could be quite the opposite in another,” Ewers said. “Never dismiss the sirens and always seek information of where the storms are.”

More information about the warning system can be found on the SEVERE WEATHER page on the City of Muscatine web site including when are the sirens sounded and what to do when you hear the sirens.



The National Weather Service in Davenport has issued a Flood Warning for Muscatine starting on Monday, June 25, and continuing until further notice. The Mississippi River at Muscatine is at 13.2 feet and rising. The NWS forecast anticipates the river rising to minor flood stage at 16 feet by Monday afternoon and then cresting at 17.2 feet Friday afternoon. Additional rainfalls will affect the projections. Those living near the river are urged to take precautions.

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