NWS, Spartanburg Co. Emergency Management explains who triggers tornado warning sirens

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – On Wednesday night, several tornado warning sirens went off across upstate, including one in Spartanburg County.

Local emergency management officials said whether or not a small part of the county is affected, if people are at risk, everyone will be notified.

“The reason they go off is to alert the public that something is going on somewhere in the county from a severe weather perspective,” said Doug Bryson, Spartanburg County Emergency Services Manager.

According to Bryson, the warning signs start with the National Weather Service.

“We watch the weather radar a lot and it’s one of our main tools to determine which storms are stronger or taller than other storms; what storms might turn,” explained National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Krentz.

According to the weather agency, this is when officials determine if the weather poses a threat to the public.

“Once we find a storm that looks like it’s getting dangerous or very strong, we’ll open a schedule and that will help us figure out where the storm is going to go,” Krentz said. “Then as soon as we hit the button, it comes straight out the door and it goes to the news media and it goes to the weather radio, as fast as we can.”

After that, the alert is sent to the local emergency management which triggers the follow-up.

“Basically, whenever a tornado warning is issued for anywhere in Spartanburg County, that information is immediately received at our downtown 911 communications center,” Bryson said. “At that time, our dispatchers and telecoms will activate the exterior warning sirens which are countywide.”

According to Spartanburg County Emergency Management, a countywide alert is issued regardless of which part of the area is affected.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to geographically isolate ourselves. Regardless of where the warning is, all sirens in the county will activate at that time,” Bryson said.

That’s what happened Wednesday night in Spartanburg County.

“This [storm system] came and barely caught the far northwest of Spartanburg County outside of Landum,” Bryson said.

No matter where and when the storms strike, Spartanburg emergency management officials said they are always prepared.

“The storms we see, especially in this part of the state, often have little to no warning,” Bryson said. “We’re ready 24/7 for just about anything, especially this time of year.”

According to Spartanburg County Emergency Management, it is advised not to rely solely on outdoor tornado warning sirens. Officials said they can sometimes be unreliable.

“We can’t stress enough not to rely solely on exterior warning sirens. You know, during a storm they might get knocked out, they might get damaged and not work. So there are so many other forms of technology that can be used,” Bryson said.

Officials encourage you to use weather radios or stay connected with weather apps for accurate updates.

“We really encourage people to have weather alert radios. These tell you exactly where and when and for how long this warning is for, whether it’s a thunderstorm warning, a tornado warning. It will point to central Spartanburg County until 7 p.m. or northwest Spartanburg County until 10 p.m. Mermaids don’t do that. They don’t tell you anything. They don’t tell you where or for how long,” Bryson said.

You can sign up for severe weather alerts on the Spartanburg County Emergency Management website or by texting “Spartanburg” to 99411.

You can also stay up to date by downloading our 7NEWS and weather app.

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