Officials explain why sirens were activated before a tornado warning Friday

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File image of a tornado siren

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – CBS4Indy is getting answers after a scary and confusing morning for those in the Indianapolis area. Tornado sirens sounded in Marion County around 8:30 a.m. before a tornado warning was issued.

People are on edge as tornadoes swept through central Indiana over the last two weeks, destroying homes and displacing families.

The Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security made the call to turn sirens on this morning after an IMPD officer spotted what looked like a funnel cloud.

“I think it was the right decision,” said Captain Ted Fries, who wanted to err on the side of caution.

DHS has three criteria to decide whether they trigger the sirens:

  1. A tornado warning has been issued by the National Weather Service.
  2. There are reports of imminent danger.
  3. There is a funnel cloud or tornado spotted by police.

The NWS says those funnel clouds may have actually been ‘fingers’ hanging out of the shelf clouds moving in. They waited to issue their warning until they saw circulation just before 9 a.m.

Fortunately, a tornado never formed this morning. However, over the past two week, Hoosiers have seen more than a dozens tornadoes devastate communities across Central Indiana. And for those living through it, like folks in Kokomo and Crawfordsville, it seems like the twisters came out of nowhere with very little warning.

But Dan McCarthy with NWS said the average lead time for a tornado in the peak season is about 15 minutes.

Unlike spring storms, McCarthy added, summer storms change rapidly making them harder to predict. This morning’s storm was no different.

“The ingredients as far as instability wasn’t exactly there yet, because we haven’t had any daytime heating,” said McCarthy. “Not all the time are you going to have a watch in place before a warning. However a warning comes because we have diligent radar operators here at this office. The meteorologists are excellent here and they are very, very concerned about the public here so they’ll get those warnings out when we need to get them out in plenty of time”

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