Tornado Warning Systems

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Being warned about a tornado can save lives. But if you don't have access to a television or radio, you may find out too late.

Like most of El Paso County, Colorado Springs doesn't have a tornado siren. The county got rid of the siren system around 1990 because, the sheriff's office says, as the city grew it became too expensive to upgrade it. Officials say it was instead replaced by the emergency action system, spread by television and radio.

One southern Colorado resident, Anna Dickey says she probably couldn't have heard a siren over all the hail Sunday afternoon, but it still worries her there was no warning about the tornado she saw heading toward her Black Forest home.

El Paso County Emergency Program Manager, Jim Mesite says it would have cost at least $10 million to upgrade the 1950's air raid system.

The trouble with the emergency action system is it works under the assumption you will always have on the TV or radio during an emergency. And in the case of Sunday, there were no tornado warnings or watches in place when a small twister touched down in Black Forest, so a siren wouldn't have helped. Experts say it's rare to have a touchdown in a forested area.

Only after the tornado touched down, was a warning issued.

Despite some worry and confusion after Sunday's weather, Mesite says the new emergency alert system works better than sirens. Extended Web Coverage

Tornado Facts

  • Tornado Watch: This is issued when the conditions in the atmosphere are suitable for the formation of tornadoes.

  • Tornado Warning: This is issued when a tornado has touched ground, has been indicated by Doppler, and/or there is a funnel cloud in the area.

What to do in case of a Tornado Warning

  • If in your home, go to an interior room on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass and wide-span roofs. Crouch down and cover your head.

  • If in your car or mobile home, abandon them and go to a designated shelter or find a ditch and stay as low as possible.

Tornado Myths

  • Do not open your windows during a tornado. This will only take time and can cause you to not be able to take adequate shelter. If a tornado is close enough to effect the pressure inside the house, then it is hitting your house.

  • Do not try to outrun or out drive a tornado. Tornadoes can travel an excess of 100 MPH. Finding the nearest shelter or ditch is the best form of safety.

Source: National Weather Service contributed to this report