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Outdoor Warning Sirens

Outdoor warning sirens are pretty common in Minnesota, but what do the different sounds mean and why do they sound at different times?

Many, but not all, communities have the siren sound at noon. Some also sound it at 6 pm. It’s just a single cycle of the siren.


The Plainview News reports there is also a siren near the Lake Zumbro/Rochester Public Utilities Dam that will sound if there is an issue with the dam and they need residents downstream of the dam to evacuate. That sound would be a fast high/low sound and it would continue for a long time.


The outdoor warning siren sounds a long, steady wail for three minutes at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. This is known as the Civil Defense Siren Test.


Occasionally, you might hear a short whir of the outdoor warning sirens. This is called a Growl Test. It’s just a quick test to be sure the sirens are working.  Each siren sends a report back to the County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center to let them know it’s working.


Lastly, the actual reason Wabasha County has outdoor warning sirens is to alert people who are outside when a tornado either has been spotted by a trained weather spotter OR when conditions are right for a tornado to develop. This sound is the long, steady wail of the siren.

The head of most sirens spin, so it may vaguely sound like a high/low siren sound. It will continue to sound until the threat is over, meaning the tornado has dissipated or weather conditions have changed for the better.


Since they are called Outdoor Warning Sirens and are meant to alert people who are outside, you should always have another way to hear what the weather is doing when you are inside.


It’s recommended you purchase a NOAA Weather Radio or download a weather app to keep well informed of the weather in your immediate area. WPVW radio will also have up to the date information during severe weather.



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