Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No siren equals misguided storm logic in Appleton, Wisconsin August 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:29 PM
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SHE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. After all, I raised her to respect storms, to head to the basement when the siren sounds.

But early this morning, warning sirens didn’t alert residents of Appleton to the severe storm sweeping through this northeastern Wisconsin city. That’s according to my second daughter, who awakened between midnight and 1 a.m. to strong winds whipping and rattling the vertical blinds in her apartment between Northland Avenue and a residential street on Appleton’s north side, the area hardest hit in this community.

Rather than proceed to the basement, she opened her second floor sliding patio door, retrieved her pepper and other plants from the balcony and crawled back into bed. Her reason: No sirens.

Crazy girl. I taught her to respect severe storms like the one early this morning that produced reported “hurricane force” winds of up to 96 mph in Appleton and the surrounding region.

According to numerous online news sources, strong winds snapped more than 100 power lines and damaged the electrical network and transmission system leaving some 62,000-plus customers initially without power. My daughter is among those. It could take up to three days before power is fully restored to the area, according to information on the City of Appleton website.

Just blocks east of my daughter’s apartment, a section of main arterial Northland Avenue is closed due to downed power lines. Trees are down everywhere, she says, and Hortonville to the northwest of Appleton was especially hard hit. She drove by the town this morning en route to New London to interpret at a medical appointment.

Appleton Medical Center, where my daughter often interprets for Spanish-speaking patients, is reportedly operating on back-up power and is bringing in a second generator from Chicago. Surgeries have been canceled.

Residents in the region are dealing with felled trees and damage to buildings.

The Outagamie County (Appleton rests in part of this county) Emergency Operations Center has been activated, an emergency declaration issued and Red Cross shelters opened in New London and Wrightstown, according to the Outagamie County Facebook page.

The need for “great caution” while traveling in north Appleton, Grand Chute, Kimberly, Little Chute, Hortonville and Freedom is recommended because of downed trees and debris on roadways.

Now, after reading all of that, should my daughter have retreated to the basement of her apartment building during this morning’s storm?

This mom thinks so.

Should the sirens in Appleton have been activated?

This mom thinks so.

WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE: According to news reports, the National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado in Appleton and an EF-2 tornado in the New London area. See this link:


An additional Red Cross shelter has been opened in Appleton.

As of early this evening, my daughter still did not have power and was preparing to throw food and purchase additional candles and a bigger flashlight. She also is without hot water. She lives near the Northland Mall, which sustained roof damage.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “No siren equals misguided storm logic in Appleton, Wisconsin”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    I am sure the siren ‘issue’ will be THE topic of discussion in certain venues, hmmmmm???

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I have no doubt about that. It already is on some online sites. Apparently Appleton was not the only community that did not sound its sirens.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Ooooo, not good! Areas/neighborhoods around here have dealt with this issue, also. It got quite costly as new systems were the answer but when lives are at stake and the technology is available…….where’s the excuse, eh?

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yeah, I don’t know what was going on. Just seeing the weather radar on the 10 p.m. news, I knew some of what Minnesota had was moving that direction. Never expected the text, though, from the daughter late this a.m. about the severe storm in Appleton. I’m glad that no lives were lost, although a worker was killed while cleaning up storm debris elsewhere in Wisconsin.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        I saw that on the news. Sad.

  2. Jackie Says:

    With all that being said, I’m glad Miranda is ok. Sounds like a crazy storm that heeded warning for sure. Yes, Mom your right…the basement would have been a good choice 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Uh, huh. Miranda called this evening and said her power is still out and may be for days as she is in one of the hardest hit areas of Appleton. She tossed all her food in the fridge and was going out to buy more candles and maybe a bigger flashlight. She doesn’t have hot water either. A friend has invited her to come over any time. So that is good. The worst damage she’s seen is in Hortonville. She drove through that small town this a.m. and said it looks really bad with trees down all over.

  3. Douglas Kletscher Says:

    The warning siren is a warning system for people who are outdoors and should not be relied on for anyone who is in a building. I would highly recommend a NOAA Weather Radio. You can program them for your area and are very reliable. Also if you loose power the siren will not work.
    Your Brother

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks brother Doug, former weather spotter and small town fire chief. Like most other people, I guess I always assumed a siren was to warn anyone, indoors and out. Now I know otherwise.

  4. Bev Walker Says:

    Tim and Leslie live in Little Chute. Some damage there but they have power. Leslie’s grandparents who live between Appleton and Freedom lost their home, several sheds, 2 cars plus their grandson’s car. Her parents who live by Kaukauna have no power and don’t expect any for a few days.
    so sad for these folks but no lives lost and minor injuries. Tim said they had no sirens and the news has now said it was 2 tornadoes (F2).

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I was waiting to hear from you, Bev. So thank you for updating me on Tim and Leslie. I am so sorry to hear that Leslie’s grandparents lost their home and more. That has to be devastating. But like you said, thankful no one was killed or injured in these storms.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    Yikes. I am glad she is safe even if she is without power. It could have been much worse. My nephew in Albuquerque was without power for almost a week a couple weeks ago because of a huge downed tree. It seems like the inconvenience lasts sooooo long in a time like that. Here’s hoping her power comes on soon and that she pays a bit more attention to the weather in the future, right?

  6. C Says:

    Douglas is right about the weather radio and using it to be warned indoors. For the sirens, Appleton is not responsible about the activation, all the sirens are under Outagamie County Emergency Management who activates the sirens. The sirens should still go off since no one can ever say there is no one outside. And many of the sirens have battery backup and will work when the power goes off. Glad to hear your daughter is doing well.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for that additional info. I appreciate it.

      Yes, the daughter is doing well and had her power restored this a.m.

      I feel most for the folks who lost their homes, like the couple referenced in a comment here from my cousin Bev Walker of Wautoma. Her daughter-in-law’s grandparents lost their home, sheds and vehicles. Now that has to be trying and my heart goes out to them.

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