Warning sirens failed when tornado hit Bryan County - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Warning sirens failed when tornado hit Bryan County

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This siren at Rock Creek Elementary School failed to alert residents about the April 30, 2019, tornado in Bryan County. (KTEN) This siren at Rock Creek Elementary School failed to alert residents about the April 30, 2019, tornado in Bryan County. (KTEN)

BRYAN COUNTY, Okla. -- When seconds count, would you get a weather warning in time to save your life?

Bryan County officials acknowledge that two alert sirens did not function the night of April 30 in the area near a deadly EF-3 tornado.

One of them was at Rock Creek Elementary School.

"Out here in a rural area, we cannot hear any weather sirens or tornado warnings, so the phone is really the only system we have," said tornado victim Wes Singleton.

The violent storm struck just minutes after he received an alert on his smartphone.

"As soon as I got the girls down in the cellar,  I'm closing the door and I can feel the pressure trying to open the door back," Singleton recalled. "I got it latched, and about three to four seconds, I heard the big bang."

Bryan County Commissioner Ron Boyer said the sirens in the area are about 20 years old, and are usually are maintained by individual cities. But on April 30, sirens in both Blue and Bokchito were not working .

"The two that are not operational out in that area were not being properly maintained," Boyer said.

Susan Cook lives in the area, and said she hasn't heard the sirens being tested for months.

"There's just a lot of questions that need to be answered and need to be thought about in preparing for the future," she said.

County leaders and emergency management personnel warn residents not to not rely solely on sirens for weather alerts.

"They're really not designed for in-home warning, because they're only effective about three-quarters to a mile away," Boyer said.

You can use the free KTEN Weather app (available for Android or Apple devices) to receive warnings tailored for your location, or you can use a weather radio that can be programmed for your zip code.

"Definitely a weather radio, paying more attention to the storms when they come in, have my phone close to me," Singleton said.

Bryan County Commissioners are working with the government to obtain a grant that would provide a weather radio to all residents. They're also considering monthly meetings and rehearsals so that everyone will be better prepared the next time disaster strikes.

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