Where can you find tornado sirens in the Tri-Cities area?

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — In the past few weeks, the nation has seen numerous tornadoes tear across the Great Plains and as close as Ohio.

The storms have led to multiple deaths and injuries, as well as causing millions of dollars in property damage.

We have seen tornadoes here in the Tri-Cities as well, most notably the tornado outbreak of 2011.

While some places in our area have invested in tornado sirens, not all have.

If you’re asking why not all, Storm Team 11 Meteorologist Victoria Cavaliere found out it’s a complex answer.

The cry of a tornado siren is a sound no one wants to hear — and one that won’t be heard by everyone in the region.

One place it will be heard is the campus of ETSU.

“We reserve our sirens for any event that is outdoors, such as a tornado or active shooter event,” ETSU Emergency Management Specialist Andrew Worley said.  

On campus, the sirens are used for more than tornado warnings in Johnson City.

The tornado siren is sounded if there is an active tornado warning in Washington County and parts of Unicoi and Carter counties.  

When it comes to communities and counties across the area, more places don’t have a siren than do.

“Any method and any amount of money necessary to save one life, in my opinion, should be done,” said Floyd Bailey, the Abingdon Director of Information Technology. 

The town of Abingdon is one community with tornado sirens. Bailey told us they have five tornado sirens.

Each costs about $5,000.

“If you save one life, it is worth the expense,” Bailey said.  

But are tornado sirens the only option? Do people know what they mean and are they effective? 

“The siren going off itself is not necessarily any better than any other method you might have, such as a wireless emergency alert,” said Anthony Cavallucci of the National Weather Service. 

There is also the question of whether or not tornado sirens are even effective in this area.  

“Kansas, for example, is completely flat, so you may be able to hear that siren for 10 or 15 miles, where here with the terrain, the sound waves bouncing off and you could be half a mile away and never hear the thing go off,” said Rusty Sells, the operations officer of the Washington County Emergency Management. 

The town of Abingdon researched this problem for their community.

They told Channel 11 News they were able to solve this issue by using multiple sirens.

But when it comes to across a whole county, an issue arises. 

“For the amount of cost that it would cost to put in sirens that would be effective for the entire county, it’s not worth the cost,” Sells said. 

Washington County, Tennessee does have an emergency alert system.

Emergency management officials encourage those living in the county to sign up online.

You can download the Storm Team 11 Weather App on the App Store or Google Play

You can also follow Storm Team 11 on Facebook

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