Aurora sounds weather alarms with no official warning

9NEWS at 5 p.m. 05/09/16.

AURORA - Some residents in Aurora are upset with the city after hazard sirens blared Sunday afternoon without a severe weather warning from the National Weather Service.

According to the Aurora Police Department's Twitter page, rotating clouds were spotted near 14th Avenue and Havana Street -- and Colfax Avenue and Potomac Street -- at around 4 p.m. Sunday.

Matt Chapman, the bureau manager for the Office of Emergency Management in Aurora, said a firefighter and a police officer both saw the weather system, and called dispatch to alert residents.

"We trust our police and fire to make a good judgment call," Chapman said.

Police that patrol the University of Colorado Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus followed the city and tweeted an alert about a "tornado warning."

Both the city of Aurora and CU-Denver/Anschutz Police said first-responders do not need specialized training to call in a weather warning.

"We trust our first-responders that if they perceive a threat to the public we’ll always err on the side of caution," Chapman said.

And, according to some posts on the Aurora Police Department Facebook page, err they did.

Shelly Fradkin, an Aurora resident who told 9NEWS over the phone she is a trained weather spotter, wrote "'Safe than sorry' when there is no REAL threat desensitizes the public and THAT is far more dangerous."

Another man wrote "...please, don't sound the sirens and freak my kids out for every cloud that floats by this summer."

"We always try to strike a balance between warning when there's a legitimate warning and doing it too much," Chapman said. 

9NEWS Meteorologist Marty Coniglio said  9NEWS will only issue a severe weather warning in a few scenarios.

"The most reliable is when the National Weather Services issues a tornado warning or a severe thunderstorm warning," Coniglio said.

He added that the team will also rely on trained weather spotters with reliable information.

"This isn't just anybody," he said.

In rare cases, 9NEWS meteorologists refer to radar imagery.

"There are algorithms that will tell you there is a likely outcome of severe weather," Coniglio said.

This is the first year the city of Aurora won't issue an all-clear siren. 

In a tweet Sunday, the city of Aurora told residents to "refer to local media" for status updates on the weather. 
9NEWS had nothing to offer, because 9NEWS never issued a warning in the first place.

When we pointed out the circular logic, Chapman again referred us to social media.

After a few more emails, Michael Bryant, a spokesman for the city of Aurora, said residents should "use their judgment," if local media have no information, and the sirens have stopped sounding.

According to the CU-Denver/Anschutz Police Twitter page, the agency issued an all-clear just before 5 p.m. Sunday.

The CU-Denver/Anschutz Emergency Management Division tweeted that their "all clear was visual," then tweeted they also used radar imagery.

A Twitter reply asking who watches the radar for the agency was not immediately answered.

Chapman said the city stands by it's choice to issue the alarm, adding that in some cases, their alerts have preceded National Weather Services alerts.

According to Bryant,  on June 24, 2015, the city ordered a tornado siren at 4:59 p.m.  The National Weather Service issued its warning at 5 p.m. 

Kyle Fredin, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said tornadoes in Aurora happen occasionally.

Between 1950 and 2014, Fredin said Adams County saw 169 tornadoes and Arapahoe County saw 19.

In that same time frame Denver recorded 16 tornadoes and Jefferson County tallied 19.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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