Some tornado sirens remained quiet in Sioux Falls Tuesday; 'human error' blamed

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - People in Sioux Falls are working to clean up the damage from three 'EF-2' tornadoes that hit the city late Tuesday night.

Damage to a home in the area of 69th Street and Western Avenue from an EF-2 tornado in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Courtesy: Sioux Falls National Weather Service)

But the way emergency management officials notified residents of the danger is coming into question.

The entire city of Sioux Falls was under a tornado warning. Many people got a notification on their mobile devices, according to station KSFY, but only a few heard sirens.

"The wind is what woke us up we didn't hear any sirens whatsoever," Sioux Falls resident, Dennis White said.

Only the sirens on the southeast side of the city activated.

"When that call from the weather service came only a partial number of our sirens were activated," said Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken.

TenHaken calls this mistake a human error after residents were left in the dark, unsure if they should take cover.

"Our system is not broken it works absolutely just fine, but there is a human aspect to operating a system and that's what happened in this case. We’re looking into actually redesigning that system per our meeting today," TenHaken said.

Lex Linton listened for the sirens but heard nothing.

"My phone had an alert, checked that and before we knew it this huge bang. The tree fell down and the power went out," Linton said. "So I started looking out the window and started getting myself ready to maybe move and it just hit so fast that kind of everything fell at once and we just ran downstairs."

TenHaken said this was a fast-moving system and by the time sirens could be activated the three EF-2 tornadoes would have already ripped through the city.

"I just want to remind people that sirens are one piece of the pie that we rely on to notify residents on what's going on with the weather," TenHaken said.

While everyone is focused on the relief efforts right now city leaders met about the issue Wednesday morning. They have plans in place going forward to redesign the system.

The sirens in Sioux Falls are tested on the first Friday of each month.