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It's Not Lil' Wayne, It's a Tornado!

By Rachelle Bowden in News on Sep 23, 2006 11:59PM

Yesterday evening, around 6:45, we noticed the sky was showing quite a bit of movement, slowly becoming a little darker and a little scarier by the second. The rain slowly started, and we heard the cries of the sirens. Passersby must have noticed our befuddlement as they alerted us that this was a tornado siren. We raced for shelter, quite awkwardly we should add, passing a lot of people that didn't seem to care that they were on the verge of being sucked up and thrown hundreds of feet across the city. 2006_09_siren.jpgSoaked, we sat at the computer and got a little more acquainted with the Public Alert Warning System, aka PAWS. It is really called that.

Now, according to the City of Chicago, if you hear a PAWS siren with a slow rise and fall you should take immediate cover. This is similar to the "Red Warning" which was used during World War II and warned of approaching danger. The "White Warning" was used as the all clear and was one continuous tone. We don't believe we heard any continuous tones yesterday, so either the city doesn't use it or this is the longest tornado warning in history.

Chicago currently has omni-directional electronic sirens, the horn design allows for a beam of sound to shoot out like a laser. That is why you couldn't really run towards the sound, it sounds the same everywhere. All 100 sirens are tested at 10:00 a.m. the first Tuesday of every month; we have somehow never heard them.

Three nerdy facts we found during this little jaunt and that we will use to impress friends with are: When the White Sox won the pennant in '59 the sirens were sounded, and everyone thought we were being attacked; Lil' Wayne used an emergency siren in the song "Fireman"; and a siren was used as the P.A. system on top of the car in The Blues Brothers.

Thanks, Timmy!