Johnston Officials Investigating After Storm Sirens Fail on Memorial Day

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Merle Hay Road and Murray by Johnston Post Office and Hy-Vee Gas

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — Officials in the city of Johnston are investigating why some of their outdoor warning sirens failed to go off during severe storms on Monday.

A tornado touched down briefly in Johnston on Monday evening, causing damage to trees and buildings. According to a press release from the city, some of the city’s sirens failed to go off as the storm hit. The city recently had four sirens replaced, but authorities aren’t sure if the issues were isolated to them.

Johnston officials are working with Polk County Emergency Management to find out where the miscommunication in the system occurred. No one was injured in the storm.

The complete release from the city of Johnston follows:

“The City of Johnston is working to determine why a few of the Outdoor Warning Sirens System did not sound in all locations during yesterday’s storm. During the week of May 18, four of the Outdoor Warning Sirens within our community were replaced (5604 NW 87th Street, 5501 NW 57th Avenue, 7001 NW Beaver Drive, and 8406 NW 78th Avenue). Polk County dispatch sounds the Outdoor Warning Sirens in the event of severe weather meeting the requirements in the Polk County-Wide Outdoor Warning Siren Activation Policy.

City staff is working with Polk County to determine if the tone to activate the sirens was not recognized during yesterday’s severe weather. Crews were on site this morning, inspecting the sirens and the battery back-ups on each of the systems. Our Outdoor Warning Siren vendor will be onsite on Wednesday, May 27, to review the issue.

The storm from Monday, May 25, is unique as it formed rapidly over or just upstream from Terra Park. Tornado Warnings are issued based on two primary sources of information – the radar and/or reliable reports of occurrence (first responders and trained spotters). In the storm event from last evening, both were received nearly simultaneously as the tornado rapidly developed. Once the threat is identified and the decision to warn has been made, it takes one to two minutes to create the warning and reach the dissemination (television, radio, and mobile phones).

All of Johnston’s Outdoor Warning Sirens work on manual activation. Severe weather is in the forecast for this afternoon and evening, and if needed, city crews will activate the sirens manually. We will continue to work with Polk County regarding the Outdoor Warning Siren System in our community as the safety of our residents is our top priority.

Weather dependent, the Outdoor Warning Sirens will be tested on Wednesday, May 27. Please do not call 9-1-1 during the test. All information regarding the test will be supplied by Polk County Emergency Management on their website and Facebook page.”

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