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Tornado Warnings for Sedalia-Pettis County, Missouri

Dave Clippert, Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency

The Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency has been asked on many occasions on how are Outdoor Warning Sirens are activated and how they work.  Every day, the National Weather Service for our area located in Pleasant Hill, Missouri provides a forecast of the weather, these forecasts generally go out as far as 4 days.

Severe storms have plagued the United States this year and Missouri has been one of the hardest hit states.  The Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency takes a great deal of pride in preparing for these storms, and providing warnings to our fellow citizens during emergencies.

 Please be reminded that these “chasers” are highly trained and have years of experience.  Never try chasing a storm !!

Just how do we accomplish this?  We have many volunteers who keep a constant vigil knowing what our weather is forecasted for each day.  One of the very first things I do each  morning is check the days forecast through the National Weather Service.  I use many different areas of the NWS web sites and we also use a commercially available radar site to give us a “picture” of the day’s events.  If it appears as if we may have severe weather, our SKYWARN volunteer coordinator will coordinate with other SKYWARN Volunteers to see who may be available to go out and “spot” storms if they happen.  We have many locations throughout the County that have been pre-identified as locations to spot potential storms.  These sites have been identified because they are located near areas where previous storms have tracked near, they offer a clear view of the surrounding area, and most importantly they provide protection to our spotters.  We also have 2 storm chasers, who are directed through the Emergency Operations Center.  They will “chase” the storm relaying important information to us.

We activate our spotter network based on information we receive from the National Weather Service and from information we gather by watching the weather radar.  Our spotters will then relay weather information to the Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Operations Center.  Information includes estimated wind speeds, cloud formations, lightning, hail, rain and any type of cloud rotation.

It is important to remember that sirens are made for outdoor warning only. 

The National Weather Service may issue a Tornado Warning based on information it receives from its radar.  Once a Tornado Warning has been issued, the tornado sirens will be set off for the area that is under a warning.  We have the capability in the Sedalia Police Department and in the Emergency Operations Center to set off the sirens for Sedalia, Hughesville/Houstonia, La Monte/Dresden, Green Ridge, and Smithton. We also have the ability to set off all sirens simultaneously.  The sirens will operate for a 3 minute period and are rated at 127 decibels at 100 feet.  It is important to remember that sirens are made for outdoor warning only.  For them to be heard indoors would make them deafening to anyone that was nearby, because so many things factor into the loudness of the siren.  These factors include, televisions, stereos, each individuals hearing, and how sound proof your home is.

When to set off the tornado warning sirens is not an exact science. Sometimes the radar does not see the rotation until a tornado is on the ground, and although we have many spotters, they cannot be in all places.  Tornadoes have touched down and done tremendous damage in other parts of the United States before any warning could be issued.  The one thing these storms did have in common, was that a Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been issued. 

Tornadoes are formed from severe thunderstorms.  When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued, it includes the possibility of very high damaging winds, large hail, lightning and heavy rain.  These warnings should never be taken lightly, and as a precaution you should be prepared to take shelter immediately.  Never sleep through a Severe Thunderstorm Warning; it could cost you your life.

We recommend each home have at least one NOAA All-Hazards Weather Alert Radio.  These radios are programmable for whatever counties you desire and can be programmed just for Pettis County.  They will alert you to watches and warnings the NWS has issued for Pettis County. It can’t be stressed enough, these radios, which cost around $30.00, are life savers.

If you have any questions please contact the Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency at (660) 827-4800 or

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