SF mayor blames “human error” for not activating all tornado sirens

Local News

There are just under 80 sirens in Sioux Falls to alert you when there’s a tornado, but not all of them went off Tuesday night.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken confirms only some of them sounded, and he’s blaming a human error for the incident. TenHaken says the city sirens are designed to alert people who are outside when a storm is approaching.

You may not hear them if you’re inside. That’s not the only reason this time. Several of you messaged KELOLAND News, wondering why you weren’t hearing sirens during the three tornadoes that touched down in Sioux Falls. TenHaken says all of the sirens work, but isn’t shying away from talking about why dispatch only activated some of them.

Widespread damage, houses and businesses left in ruins make up the nightmare people in the area are dealing with Wednesday. Rewind to the start of the storm, when Robert Amburn woke up at about 11:30 pm.

“And then things really picked up,” Amburn said.

Amburn and his wife saw high winds tear through their neighborhood, and heard tree limbs come crashing down.

“Heard the tree come down in the back yard. That woke us up, we were awake, but that woke us up,” Amburn said.


“Heard no sirens. We didn’t think we were in any danger, so we just stayed on the bed there and listened to it and watched it,” Amburn said.

“A lot of people have been asking, why didn’t the sirens go off,” TenHaken said.

TenHaken says sirens didn’t go off throughout the entire city because of a human error. He says 911 dispatch waits for guidance from the National Weather Service to activate the sirens.

“The way the system works is you have the opportunity within the software to either turn them all on or turn portions on. With the discussion of the southeast part, a tornado was in the southeast, dispatcher heard southeast, turn on southeast only,” TenHaken said.

TenHaken says it was a miscommunication.

“There’s parts of government, that require human interaction, and this is one. And I’m owning it. It’s my team, it’s my administration,” Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

TenHaken says the weight of this isn’t lost on city leaders. He says they met early this morning to talk about how to prevent this from happening again, and are looking at redesigning the system to make sure the sirens go off when they need to. The massive storms took a toll overnight. Fast forward to today, and you’ll hear prayers of gratitude coming form Amburn.

“Thank God nothing happened and no one lost their life in this,” Amburn said.

To stay up to date on the paths of storms, you can download the KELOLAND Storm Tracker App to your mobile devices.

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