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Webster County residents: You may hear storm sirens more often in the future

Sirens will now sound for certain severe hail and wind storms, according to a new policy from Webster County Emergency Management.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Webster County residents may hear storm sirens more frequently in the future thanks to a new activation policy change approved this week.

Effective June 1, the Webster County Emergency Management Commission says storm sirens will sound for severe thunderstorms producing either 1.75"+ (golf-ball size) hail, or wind gusts of 70+ mph.

Some severe thunderstorm warnings do not meet these criteria, therefore, sirens will not sound in Webster County for every warning issued. 

Only warnings meeting the 70+ mph wind gusts or 1.75"+ hail criteria will trigger siren activation. Severe thunderstorm criteria is 60+ mph & 1" hail.

This change is in addition to tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service or visual funnel cloud/tornado reports, which have always prompted sirens in Webster County.

Further, only sirens within the severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning will be activated.

"We activate sirens based on the polygon. about four years ago, we did a county wide siren activation. Now, we're just doing it based on the [areas impacted in the] polygon itself," said Dylan Hagen, director of Webster County Emergency Management.

Many other counties in Iowa already sound sirens for severe storms producing large hail and damaging wind gusts, including Polk County in the Des Moines metro. 

The Iowa Emergency Management Association says 70+ mph winds and golf ball size hail or greater can be harmful and life-threatening to the public.

Wind gusts of 70+ mph can cause large, healthy trees to fall, possibly onto homes, mobile homes, vehicles, or other buildings.

Golf ball size hail can easily shatter windows or cause physical injury. 

One other change will occur with the siren tones, according to information released from Webster County Emergency Management.

Saturday's noon test will feature a one-minute wail tone, while warning activation in the event of dangerous weather will prompt a three-minute, steady alert tone.

"Some people in the heat of the moment won't recognize the difference of one minute to three minutes. That's why we changed the tone; for folks to know that this is the real thing, rather than just the test," Hagen added.

Once three minutes have passed, the sirens will reactivate for the warned areas of Webster County.

It is important to remember: outdoor warning sirens are only intended for people who are outdoors. 

If you hear sirens, you should move indoors to a safe location and check local weather.

Finally, note there is no all clear given when storm sirens are activated.

Webster County includes the cities of Badger, Barnum, Callender, Clare, Dayton, Duncombe, Farnhamville, Fort Dodge, Gowrie, Harcourt, Lehigh, Moorland, Otho, Stratford, and Vincent. 

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