Bell said the purpose of the sirens is to urge everyone, especially those who may be outside, to take shelter and be aware that severe weather is arriving.
The Waukesha County Communications Center made the decision to sound the sirens at 8:35 p.m. Wednesday due to reports from the national weather service of large hail and winds in excess of 60 mph.
“(Tornadoes) are the primary use of outdoor warning sirens,” Bell said. “But I keep calling them outdoor warning sirens because they’re not tornadic specific. We’re trying to notify people outside to seek shelter when bad weather is approaching.”
Waukesha County operates the sirens for some, but not all, of the county’s municipalities.
For example, the City of Waukesha operates its own emergency sirens.
In Washington County, all but one siren is run by the area’s various municipalities. The county’s emergency management department said its only siren, located at the fairgrounds, is activated during tornado warnings and/or credible funnel cloud sightings.
In Ozaukee County, the sirens are only used for tornado warnings, but the Director of Emergency Management said officials are working to amend the policy to also sound the sirens in response to extremely strong, straight-line winds.
In Milwaukee County, the Director of Emergency Management said the sirens are sounded during tornado warnings, as well as during very strong straight-line winds. The latter use of the sirens is determined on a case by case basis.