Siren retest shows improvement - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Siren retest shows improvement

Rich Van Wyk/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - After Wednesday night's total failure, the National Weather Service and City of Indianapolis re-tested the county's tornado warning system. Although the system passed, some of the sirens failed - as the city announced a $5 million solution.

Another day, and yet another test of a tornado siren system intended to warn residents of killer weather. The results range from success to failure.At a news conference, Mayor Bart Peterson explained to reporters, "The impact of early warning system is incalculable. It is absolutely essential."

Yet the system is flawed. Marion County's tornado sirens stayed silent during Wednesday nights statewide drill. The National Weather Service blames a computer glitch. The system saw it was a test, and didn't sound the sirens.

On Friday the Weather Service issued the code used during actual tornadoes. It worked, and meteorologist in charge John Ogren sounded reassuring, saying, "This system has never failed us in the past in a live warning situation."

However, Marion County's tornado warning system is plagued with outdated, repairable and unreliable sirens. Like the one outside Carl Purvis' restaurant. He could hardly hear it during the test. "Sometimes it works. Sometimes it don't. When it works it's very low," he said.

Some sirens don't work at all. Spotters found at least 12 failed the morning test.

Just minutes before, John Ball, Marion County Emergency Management Director promised a new warning system, "Will be the most technology advanced system in the country."

A $5 million system will replace network 140 sirens heard in just 70 percent of the county. Some 170 bigger, louder sirens will cover nearly the entire county. What's more, authorities will be able to sound sirens only in the areas in line of severe weather, reducing the number of false alarms.

"Yes, we might have a tornado down in Southport and Beach Grove but the people in Nora are saying what's the big deal, the sun's shining," said John Ogren.

Work on the new warning system is already underway. First crews will install sirens in areas that have none. They will refurbish 70 newer existing sirens, and install 100 new ones. The new warning system is expected to be up and running in six months.

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