WICHITA, Kansas – A system malfunction caused tornado sirens to go off across the city of Wichita early Wednesday morning.
Reports started coming in around midnight and lasted until about 2:00 a.m.
The problem areas primarily seemed to be in the downtown area, but they weren’t just in that location. Sirens were also going off out West and down South. There were no active warnings.
Officials with Emergency Management had to investigate the system earlier this year after a different malfunction caused the sirens to not go off when they were supposed to.
Officials say they have no idea why the sirens were going off overnight. Emergency Management teams has been going around town testing 20 siren control boxes. Sedgwick County Emergency Manager Daniel Pugh says it was rain that caused three sirens to malfunction earlier Wednesday morning, going off when there was no warning.
“Once the water gets inside and it crosses some of those circuits and basically manually triggers them. So they don’t need a signal from the computer to go off, they go off as someone was standing there pushing the button,” Pugh said.
He says the sealant inside of the control boxes had worn down, causing the rain to get inside.
“We didn’t have a lot of water in them, but there’s just a little bit around the bottom of the control board,” said Pugh. “It’s not like we opened it up and water came gushing out or anything.”
The county visually inspects sirens at least once a year to check for wear and tear.
“What we’re going to do is we’re to go through and investigate, inspect most of the sirens now and make sure that the seals around the sirens are good. Anything that we find that isn’t, then we’ll get a work order and get those fixed right away,” said Pugh.
They plan to change the procedure of physically inspecting the boxes more than once a year, but wouldn’t say how often.
“We look at that and any kind of water inside an electrical system is bad though. Even a couple of drops is bad. That’s what we’ve got to make sure we don’t have happen again,” Pugh said.
Only one of the three sirens that malfunctioned remains off Wednesday night, the other two will still work.
The city says there are enough over-lapping sirens in the area. That way, the warning will be heard if a severe storm does prompt the sirens to go off before that last one is fixed.
The city hopes to have the repairs done by the end of the week.