Questions raised over tornado sirens

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Updated: .

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Marion County - Sirens sounded Wednesday night as a storm moved through Marion County, but they caused a lot of confusion because there was no tornado warning or watch at the time. Our 13 Investigates team has pointed out serious problems with weather sirens across central Indiana. Wednesday highlighted a different problem: Are we too trigger-happy in setting off the sirens?

On Wednesday night, the sirens worked. Marion County activated them at 8:46 as heavy storms moved through the area. The sirens sounded after a sheriff's deputy reported seeing a funnel cloud here in the vicinity of Southeastern and I-74

But most people never knew why the sirens went off - even those watching television.

"I heard the sirens go off and it had been raining on and off and I had the radar on so I wasn't that concerned," said Jim Burres, Indianapolis resident. "All it said was a thunderstorm warning, so I didn't think it was a tornado but like a false alarm."

"There was a little confusion there," said Randy Collins, Marion County emergency management.

That's because despite the sirens, the National Weather Service never issued a tornado watch or warning. Collins says while the weather service knew of the sighting and tried to get more information, they couldn't confirm it.

"They didn't feel there was any reason to issue a warning based on what they were seeing," said Collins.

He says hearing a siren without a warning issued doesn't happen that often. It's usually triggered from information by the National Weather Service, but Marion County will also sound the alarm when a public safety official reports a possible sighting.

"The judgment on the street was I see a funnel cloud so we need to activate the siren and get the warning out as soon as possible," said Collins.

Collins says they don't sound the sirens unless there's a reason. They also err on the side of caution. "We can look at it two ways. What if there really was a funnel cloud and a warning wasn't issued?" he said.

One thing we have touched on this month is the need for you to have a weather radio at home.  A weather radio with SAME technology is a great tool to have at home. You can program it to your county and it gives you text messages if we're under a watch or warning.

A shipment of 10,000 weather radios are on their way to HH Gregg stores. We'll bring you more information on how you can get one at a reduced cost Friday.