Some Warning Sirens Failed as Tornado and Straight-Line Winds Ripped Through Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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As a tornado and straight-line winds blew off roofs and destroyed buildings Tuesday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, some of the city’s warning sirens appear to have malfunctioned.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said there was a “breach of protocol” with the city’s outdoor warning system, the Associated Press reported. The city is investigating.

Most of the sirens were working and sounded in the southwest part of the city, which sustained much of the major damage, TenHaken said. But sirens are supposed to sound city-wide.

“We’re doing an internal investigation on why that happened, why the existing protocol was not followed,” TenHaken told the Argus Leader. “The city recognizes that, is owning that, and we’ll be taking the proper steps to rectify that.”

Todd Heitkamp, the meteorologist-in-charge at the Sioux Falls National Weather Service, told the newspaper it’s important to note that outdoor warning sirens aren’t specifically tornado sirens. The system is intended to warn people who are outside that a life-threatening situation is happening.

“I can tell you from my stance last night, I heard the siren only because I stood outside wondering what was going to happen right before the storm hit my house,” Heitkamp said.

A preliminary survey from the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF2 tornado with winds estimated at 125 mph had touched down.

Sioux Falls Fire Chief Brad Goodroad said 37 buildings collapsed or now have issues with structural integrity.

Some people were trapped under collapsed structures and had to be rescued, according to the Argus Leader. Downed trees and powerlines hindered emergency response in much of south Sioux Falls.

Homes and a hospital were damaged in southern sections of the city.

Avera Behavioral Health Hospital had a portion of its roof torn off by the storms, according to the Argus Leader. Seven patients from the hospital were transported to Avera Heart Hospital, spokeswoman Michelle Pellman told the Argus Leader.

The National Weather Service says the destructive storms hit about 11:45 p.m. CDT Tuesday night.

“Based on early assessments, the area of Sioux Falls that received the great impact from the overnight storm is bordered by 26th Street on the north, 85th Street on the south, Marion Road on the west and Minnesota Avenue on the east,” the Sioux Falls Fire Department tweeted.

Sioux Falls Police issued a no travel advisory early Wednesday because debris, including trees and power lines, covered many roads in the area.

More than 8,200 Xcel Energy customers in Minnehaha County remained without power as of 10 a.m. CDT.

More severe storms and heavy rain could impact the area on Wednesday and Wednesday night before cooler, drier conditions move in on Thursday.

by (2019, Sept 11)

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Kyrie Wagner