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Tornado sirens in St. Louis will now sound for destructive thunderstorms

Warnings will sound for storms producing 80+ mile per hour winds and/or baseball sized hail

ST. LOUIS — The next time you hear the familiar blast of a tornado siren it might not mean a tornado is approaching. Instead the alarm could be for strong winds or large hail. 

The National Weather Service will issue "Destructive Thunderstorm Warnings" when storms in the area are capable of producing 80+ mile per hour winds and/or baseball sized hail. 

"The destructive thunderstorm warning will now be accompanied by a wireless emergency alert, that alert is the type of alert that goes through the cellular infrastructure and will hit any phone in that area for which the alert has been issued," Sarah Russell, the Emergency Management Commissioner for the City of St. Louis said.

Wireless Emergency Alerts are like Amber Alerts and can be enabled or disabled manually on most cell phones. To streamline emergency alerts, the National Weather Service is coordinating with area emergency management teams to sound outdoor sirens around the same time the cell alerts go out. 

"These are the storms that are capable of producing serious damage," Russell said, emphasizing that early warning systems are critical for emergency management.

The new warning system goes into effect September 20th. The National Weather Service of St. Louis says all of their counties have verbally agreed to the "Destructive Thunderstorm Warning" protocol.

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