Sparta mayor has to crank tornado warning siren by hand to get it to sound off

Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 11:04 PM CDT
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A tornado that started in Highlandville, tracked 12 miles into the Sparta area.

Wind speeds of up to 90 mile per hour wind left damage behind.

Despite the storm, the town's only warning siren didn't sound.

Many people contacted us with concerns that it didn't go off.

It turns out, it's an older model that the mayor, Jenny Davis, has to physically get to. Davis has to crank it by hand to power it up to get it to howl.

"From that time that KY3 announced it in south Springfield to ten seconds later it hit," said Matt Wardle.

He said that he and his wife didn't have enough time to get to their storm shelter.

"We would have had to come across the path of the tornado. We would have been killed going from that door into there," he said.

They had to huddle on the bathroom floor as the EF-1 tornado ripped through their property.

"There was no siren. The fire department told me the power was out downtown, they couldn't sound the siren," said Wardle.

Davis said, "Do not rely on an outdoor, ancient, tornado siren to save your life."

She is the only person tasked with the responsibility of using a hand crank to power up the only siren in town.

"I was still going to try to risk my life and jump in the car and go manually sound it but a huge tree was blocking the highway so I couldn't get there," she explained.

Davis is urging everyone to find a more reliable source for severe weather warnings.

"Make sure you subscribe to the Swift 911 app, follow the National Weather Service, KY3 and have a weather radio," she said.

Wardle said, "I actually closed my eyes and thought we were going to die. It was horrible. It was the grace of God that kept us alive."

The cost for a new siren is $40,000. Sparta doesn't have the funds in their budget to obtain a new one.