Some people in Tupelo are saying that warning sirens failed to sound before a tornado struck the city Monday afternoon.
Resident LaShona Jamison, who has a siren in her backyard, told WTVA-TV that the siren never activated.
“It never went off,” Jamison said. “Normally the least slight of wind or rain makes that thing go off, but it didn’t on Monday.”
Once a month the county tests the siren, so she’s no stranger to the noise.
“It’s loud,” she said. “It’s very loud.”
However, Lee County Emergency Management Director Lee Bowdry said a monitoring system shows sirens did sound. People in Tupelo’s downtown and Crosstown sections said they did hear sirens.
The tornado, with winds of up to 150 mph, damaged more than 200 homes and 16 businesses in Tupelo and Lee County. One death from a traffic accident was reported in Lee County, out of 14 statewide.
Tornado sirens are supposed to activate as soon as warnings are issued. Sirens wail for three minutes, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported, then pause and usually activate again.
“I did not hear them in Oak Meadows and always have been able to hear them in the past,” said Bobby King of Belden.
Tupelo has 22 tornado sirens, while nearly as many are located in other parts of Lee County.
Tupelo Water & Light Director Johnny Timmons said that because of all the complaints, workers will check sirens across the city for possible mechanical problems. As city and county officials test the sirens this weekend, they’ll try to find explanations for any siren failure to activate.
Officials urge people to have multiple ways to learn of warnings.
“You should never rely on just one thing,” said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn. “We encourage people to have a weather radio, text alerts and pick up the phone and call people they know to warn them.”