Sirens cause confusion during severe weather

PEWAUKEE (WITI) -- Severe weather sirens, commonly referred to as tornado sirens, caused confusion for many during a severe weather outbreak on Wednesday evening, June 12th.

"People refer to them as tornado sirens, but they're really not just for tornadoes," said Waukesha County Emergency Preparedness Director Richard Tuma. "They're severe weather sirens. They're outdoor warning sirens. They're used to be able to warn the residents, particularly those who're outside, that severe weather is coming."

Linda Kornfehl was just a few doors down from the siren in Pewaukee when it sounded on Wednesday as winds whipped throught Waukesha County.

"The siren went off and I went 'oh, tornado,'" said Kornfehl.

Tuma says the sirens were activated to warns residents that winds were expected to exceed the county's 58 mile-per-hour threshold.

"We were notified last night from the Weather Service that there were winds in the range of 70-to-80 miles-an-hour headed our direction. They did substantial damage in Columbia county," said Tuma.

With the extent of storm damage varying throughout the county, Tuma explains that he likes to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

"There was a tree that went down in Brookfield and took a roof out of a church down there. If people were in the parking lot when that occurred, and the sirens hadn't gone off, they would've had no warning whatsoever," said Tuma.

Waukesha County is responsible for activating sirens in 29 of its 36 municipalities. The remaining municipalities are advised of any activation but it's up to the leaders there to determine whether or not to send out a warning.