‘Inundated with calls’: How Metro Communications responded to 2019 Sioux Falls tornadoes

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — At this time last year, many businesses and homeowners in Sioux Falls were dealing with the aftermath of three tornadoes that touched down in Sioux Falls.

The twisters hit Sioux Falls late at night on September 10th, sparking a busy overnight for those on the frontlines of the disaster.

Adam Bunger remembers one of the first calls he answered after the tornadoes touched down.

“You sit there for a second and you think ‘Did I just hear what I heard?’ Not only did a tornado hit, but it hit a hospital,” Metro Communications Shift Supervisor Adam Bunger said.

Avera Behavioral Health Center was one of the many buildings impacted by severe weather that night.

“We have all sorts of training. We have procedures for how to handle everything. We don’t have a procedure for three tornadoes hit at one time and one of them hits a hospital. At that point everyone was inundated with calls,” Bunger said.

Metro Communications answered more than 600 calls in a 3-4 hour period.

To put that into perspective, on a typical day staff members field about 850 calls in 24 hours.

“You just start processing calls and you know you’re busy and you know you’re getting overwhelmed,” Bunger said.

While Metro Communications Director Scott McMahon is well-experienced in this line of work, he had only been on the job fulltime in Sioux Falls for about a week when disaster struck.

“It was really the first opportunity I had to see how well Minnehaha County, city of Sioux Falls, public agencies came together to manage such a terrible incident that happened,” Metro Communications Director Scott McMahon said.

And one part of that team is Metro Communications.

“You know, the staff that was working that night, most of us have a lot of experience. We’ve worked together a long time. We just have a good working relationship and it’s what we do. It’s what we get paid to do. It’s not that busy every night, but it could be that busy. That’s our job,” Bunger said.

Metro Communications had to call in extra staff to handle the high volume of calls that night.

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