NICHOLS, Wis. (WFRV) – The storm that hit northeast Wisconsin last week is rekindling a debate in an Outagamie County village about whether or not tornado sirens are needed to keep people safe when severe weather strikes.
“No sirens, no nothing, I had no idea anything was coming and then all of a sudden it (the storm) hit again and there was a lot of people that just got hit off guard,” said Ron Leskow of Nichols.
He said he was on his way out of town to get a ‘Brisk’ drink with his daughter last Wednesday night when he realized how windy and stormy it was and figured out he should turn around right away and go home.
His house wasn’t hit, but there were several trees down in his yard.
Nichols hasn’t had sirens since 2020. That was the year that Outagamie County stopped maintaining sirens in the county turning that task over to the individual municipalities.
When the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, Outagamie County still automatically activates the tornado sirens in the areas where the warning was issued.
Maintaining a tornado siren isn’t cheap. According to the village president in Nichols, maintenance costs around $1500 per year, and getting a new siren costs $25,000 per year.
Instead of maintaining the sirens, the county is funding a system called AtHoc which provides emergency alerts via text message to Outagamie County residents that sign up.
“I don’t get reception so it does no good and without internet connection without the power we didn’t have internet,” said Leskow.
Outagamie County emergency management director Paula Rieder tells Local 5 News that there’s a medley of options residents can choose from to stay alert for severe weather.
These include the AtHoc alert system from the county, weather apps, and alerts from the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Another option is buying a weather radio, which is cheap at stores, and county officials told Local 5 News they distributed some to local municipalities to give to residents.
Rieder told Local 5 that all of these options give people more information about the timing and location of a storm than a tornado siren can.
She also said the county posts updates on upcoming severe weather events on their website and social media pages days before it actually hits. She also encourages residents to look at some sort of weather coverage everyday so they can get an idea of when severe weather is coming.
“The sounds of the siren only carries for so far so, it’s hard to hear it unless it’s literally in your backyard,” said Rieder.
WFRV’S Weather App is another great way to always stay on top of severe storms.