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  • Last modified 1303 days ago (April 23, 2015)

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Was that a tornado siren?

A couple of weeks ago, during a late night thunderstorm, with severe weather being reported all around, the tornado siren went off in Peabody about half an hour after storms on the local weather stations had been declared less intense and not likely to produce any weather problems in our area.

Oh dear. All the channels were saying we were out of danger and yet the tornado siren was wailing. Who do we believe? Go to the basement? Go out on the porch and look at the sky? Call someone? Who?

I have a good solid basement in which I always wait out a storm. My family has done so any number of times since we bought our home in 1976. Now that I am on my own, I make it a point every storm season to visit the basement early and make sure I have everything I need down there. I also have a tote bag by the basement door into which I can toss my phone, medications, and other last minute items. The Daughters know where I will be during a storm — they will know where to look for me.

I have lived in Kansas for 45 years. I have never experienced a tornado. I have never even seen one — most of the time I barely have a healthy respect for the threat of violent weather. Most of the time…

One of the things that struck me about the most recent siren event was that there were knots of people standing on the sidewalks in my neighborhood trying to see if there was a funnel cloud bearing down on us. Whoa… That is not where we are supposed to be if the tornado siren sounds. However, I was out there as well. The sky was calm. There was no wind. The weatherman on my television was insisting Marion County was no longer in the path of any severe weather. However, the siren was screaming.

The Married Daughter and Ol’ What’s His Name walked up the sidewalk to ask if I knew anything more than they knew. Porch lights were on at several homes and still the siren wailed. A few minutes later it stopped and everyone seemed to move inside, assuming we had just experienced a false alarm.

Then came the all-clear siren, but instead of a long blast of one tone, the all-clear is a wavering sound similar to the sirens on our emergency vehicles.

The all-clear siren triggered a whole new round of gatherings outside and phone calls to people who might have information about emergency notifications.

I remembered having postcard-sized information cards issued by the city several decades ago. The cards contained a graphic that described the various warning sounds from the emergency sirens — a straight line indicating the siren that signaled an immediate threat of dangerous weather and a wavy line indicating the all clear. We kept one of the postcards next to each telephone extension. I have no idea where they might be now.

However, maybe it would be a good idea for the city to come up with a similar graphic they hand out when new residents sign up for water and sewer service. The information is simple and would not take too much effort to produce a clear-cut illustration of dynamics of the siren as well as other emergency information that might be needed by new residents.

Wait! Instead of having the city add that project to the list of things the Peabody City Clerk already has on her plate, how about a youth organization, an adult service organization, or even a family or a small group of people willing to help new families assimilate to the community take that on?

This is a simple mission, but it seems to me it is an important one. Be a hero and offer to do this.

—SUSAN MARSHALL

Last modified April 23, 2015

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