Cape Girardeau Outdoor Warning Sirens: Frequently Asked Questions

Crews installed a siren near sports fields on the campus of Cape Central High School and the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center in fall 2013.

Cape Girardeau is fortunate to have recently added 5 more outdoor warning sirens paid for by casino revenue. In addition, $78,000 from casino revenue paid the 25 percent share of a grant that will help Cape Girardeau County, Scott City and the city of Jackson to fund 18 additional sirens in the smaller neighboring communities.

With springtime severe weather potentially around the corner, the increased number of outdoor sirens will be beneficial to our community and especially those attending many outdoor sporting events. However, outdoor sirens and their usage can sometimes lead to confusion. Check out the following Q&A and links to help answer questions you might have about the sirens in Cape Girardeau.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions from the NWS/NOAA

Does Cape Girardeau ever test their sirens? How do I know the sirens are working?

Cape Girardeau’s outdoor sirens are tested at noon on the first Wednesday of each month. The test will not be conducted if threatening weather is in the area. When you hear the sirens, consider what you would need to do to keep you and your family safe.

I can’t always hear the warning sirens. Why not?

Outdoor warning sirens are called “outdoor sirens” for a reason. Outdoor warning sirens’ main purpose is alerting people in exterior areas to oncoming weather or other potential dangers. You may not be able to hear outdoor sirens in a building’s interior since their main purpose is alerting you when you are outside.

It is highly recommended that citizens have alternate warning sources;  Alternate warning sources include NOAA Weather Radios with alert tones (preferably in the bedroom); Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) via your smartphone; local media outlets like KFVS-TV, 960 KZIM radio, and the Southeast Missourian newspaper; and text alert products provided by various sources.

Circles overlay this Cape Girardeau map to show the reach of the City's existing outdoor warning sirens. (Click to enlarge)
Circles overlay this Cape Girardeau map to show the reach of existing outdoor warning sirens. (Click to enlarge)

Where are Cape Girardeau’s sirens?

This map (at right) illustrates existing and proposed siren locations. The last of five sirens purchased with revenue from the casino were installed in late 2013 are shown in yellow on the map.

When will you sound the outdoor sirens, other than the monthly test?

Sirens currently are sounded for weather alerts by city emergency personnel in Cape Girardeau if the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado warning for anywhere in Cape Girardeau County. Regardless of whether or not Cape Girardeau city limits are included in a warned area, if you hear the sirens sounding use an alternate warning source (described above) to take cover and gather more information.

What’s the difference between a severe thunderstorm or tornado “watch” and “warning”?

• Watch: Conditions are more likely to produce severe weather; be alert and ready.
• Warning: Severe weather is occurring or imminent; seek shelter immediately.

Tornado and other weather warnings are issued by the NWS when severe weather and/or tornadoes are likely to occur, have been sighted by a weather spotter trained by the NWS, or when severe weather or a tornado is indicated by radar.

When is “tornado season”?

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no official “tornado season.” Tornadic storms most frequently occur in the spring and early summer months, but severe weather of all types can occur any time during the year – including fall.

Do tornadoes strike at a specific time of day?

Tornadoes have been documented at all hours of the day and night. Southeast Missouri and the surrounding region is historically more susceptible to night-time severe weather and tornadoes, making the need for alternate warning sources, like NOAA Weather Radios, more important. According to research by Northern Illinois University (NIU), nighttime tornadoes (midnight to dawn) are 2.5 times more likely to be deadly.

Graphic: Percentage of nocturnal tornadoes by state, 1950-2005 (NIU)

What direction do tornadic storms travel?

Tornadoes often move from southwest to northeast, but have been known to move in any direction. Because of the highly erratic nature of these vicious storms, it is imperative that citizens and their families are prepared in case such a storm does occur.

I have a NOAA Weather Radio. How do I tune it properly?

For alerts from the National Weather Service, tune your NOAA weather radio to station KXI-93 at 162.550 MHz. Additional information is available here on the NWS’s website, or contact the Cape Girardeau Fire Department for assistance.

City’s Adopt-A-Siren Program

Additionally, anyone can be a part of the city’s Adopt-A-Siren program. If you’d like to adopt (sponsor) a siren, please contact Assistant Fire Chief/Emergency Operations Coordinator Mark Hasheider at 573-339-6330.

Additional sources:

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