Pat Shingleton: "Sirens and the Alley"
Years ago, traveling over Government Street to Independence Park offered a glimpse of a siren atop a telephone pole within a wooded area. It was installed during the Cold War to alert residents of an attack. The siren was later modified for weather purposes and impending storms. Last weekend my wife an d I were in Yazoo, Mississippi and heard the tornado sirens outside our hotel during an episode of tornadoes - the same system that moved through Baton Rouge. In April, 2011, sirens failed in Madison, WI, during an outbreak of intense tornadoes. For most communities, the sirens of yesteryear are the cellular phones of today and even though sirens enhance a multiple warning system, wireless emergency alerts immediately display a “take shelter immediately” message with an audio alert. Alerts now transmit three types of warnings: Life threatening storms, Presidential Alerts and Amber Alerts. Many emergency management directors believe sirens are valuable despite their aged methodology, the inability of hearing them indoors and past examples of storm-related failures. In addition, a vague, outlined swath of countryside, extending from the deep-south through the plains and the Midwest formerly was a loose definition of “Tornado Alley.” Discovery magazine noted that two traditional alleys have been identified from Oklahoma and Texas through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri and into the Ohio Valley. Another alley identifies our area and the Gulf South, known as the Dixie Alley. The American Association of Geographers has officially identified four distinct regions that could also receive alley labels. Years ago, Michael Frates, a graduate assistant at the University of Akron, analyzed tornado tracks greater than 20 miles and identified 3,000 tornado cells. His research verified that our Dixie Alley has the highest frequency of long-track tornadoes, making it the most active in the United States.