Living under the Thunderbolt 1000

Behold the Thunderbolt 1000 siren:

Midwesterners of a certain age will feel their blood run cold when its blower motor winds up and the siren starts blaring. I grew up in the 90s in Naperville, IL, less than 300’ from one of these. Here’s exactly where it was perched, now featuring a different siren: Google Streeview

I don’t know what the new one sounds like.

The sound really was the stuff of nightmares—my nightmares! Tornado threats loomed large in my youth, and on multiple occasions I ended up driving through their aftermath (Barneveld, Plainfield). For a while, I had recurring tornado nightmares, and this siren always featured prominently. This makes sense since they’d run siren tests every month (oh, it’s that Tuesday), and apparently still do.

Now that I’ve really sold it, if you’d like to experience the Thunderbolt yourself, the internet has you covered with an extremely good recording:

Aside from the startup growl (usually associated with 😱), I vividly remember the spooky-sounding echoes as it wound down, around 1:15 in the video. The echoes are surprising, given the flat, suburban environment, but it’s hard to overstate just how damn loud the thing was.

From the Service Manual we can see exactly how loud:

70 dB at 1 mile, 80 dB (Apple Watches will alert “Loud Environment”) at ½ mile, and precisely loud af dB at 250’, which is where our house was.

I left the tornadoes and sirens 15 years ago when we moved to Oregon. I’m happy to not think about tornadoes much anymore, though I do miss a good thunderstorm.