Some rural areas near Andover had no siren coverage


SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (AP/KSNW) Some residents of rural Sedgwick County did not hear the sirens go off before an EF-3 tornado hit the Wichita and Andover area.

While most of the attention after Friday’s tornado focused on the heavily populated town of Andover, rural areas also suffered significant damage following a tornado that traveled nearly 13 miles .

Several homes were damaged and two people were injured in a rural neighborhood called Gypsum Township, less than a mile from the Wichita city limits.

Sedgwick County officials acknowledge that many rural residents may not have heard the tornado sirens that are often miles away. They say several factors come into play where the sirens are placed, and it is unrealistic to expect all rural areas to be covered by tornado sirens.

Julie Stimson, director of emergency management for Sedgwick County, said the sirens were never intended to warn people inside their homes or structures.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell also said it is unrealistic to expect the county to sound sirens all over rural areas.

According to Howell, Sedgwick County currently has 152 sirens that cover approximately 1,009 square miles, and the county plans to install five new sirens each year. However, even with the improvements, the county will never be able to close all of the dead spots in the county.

Stimson says the main factor is making sure the sirens are in places where people might be outdoors, such as schools, parks and commercial areas.

Additionally, Stimson and Howell say residents should rely on a combination of sirens, weather radios, cell phone alerts and/or local media reports for tornado watches and warnings. The county is there to help, but adults should educate themselves, have a plan, and be alert for approaching storms.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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