Warning siren protocols across West Michigan

WEST MICHIGAN - Several rounds of strong thunderstorms this week is making up for what has been a relatively quiet summer.

A rare "enhanced" risk for severe weather exists for parts of West Michigan this evening and tonight. This comes after storms knocked out power to tens of thousands Sunday night and also prompted the use of warning sirens in Ottawa and Allegan Counties. There was never a Tornado Warning issued or threat for one to possibly form, which left many people confused as to why these sirens were going off in the first place.

Warning sirens are not only for tornadoes, but can also be used for damaging winds and hazardous material release. If you hear a warning siren, know that it is being sounded to get you to head into a sturdy shelter and seek further information on what prompted the siren. That information is available to you through a NOAA weather radio, the National Weather Service's website/mobile app, a notification on your mobile device, and through FOX17 news live on television, your computer or mobile device.

Information from multiple West Michigan counties on their warning siren protocol is listed below to reduce any confusion before storms roll through tonight. According to Jack Stewart, the Kent County Emergency Manager, protocols are based on the experiences that each specific county has had previously. This is the main reason that not all are the same in our area.

Allegan: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Barry: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Berrien: No specific system in place. Sirens will always sound for a Tornado Warning or if a tornado is spotted.

Branch: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Cass: Tornado Warning or Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued. Tornado spotted by a trained observer.

Calhoun: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Ionia: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Kalamazoo: No specific system in place. Sirens will always sound for a Tornado Warning or if a tornado is spotted.

Kent: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Mecosta: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer. (All clear siren also issued)

Montcalm: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer. (All clear siren also issued)

Muskegon: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Newaygo: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Oceana: Tornado Warning is issued or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

Ottawa: Tornado Warning, damaging straight line winds possible or a tornado has been spotted by a trained observer.

St. Joesph: No specific system in place. Sirens will always sound for a Tornado Warning or if a tornado is spotted.

Van Buren: No specific system in place. Sirens will always sound for a Tornado Warning or if a tornado is spotted.

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2 comments

  • Kevin

    This is good information, but as I understand for Allegan county they will activate the sirens if there is the possibility of winds exceeding 60 mph. which could fall under a Severe thunderstorm warning such as was the case this past week.

  • Kim

    We live in northern Allegan county, and this is too much like crying wolf. We are not likely to take shelter for storm/winds, especially without some type of “all clear”. Sit down there for the duration of the storm? Last night would have been hours. Now when a real tornado, likely won’t heed unless conditions seem to warrant it. Which is what we would do even without the sirens.