(Gillette, Wyo.) At a press conference today on relief efforts in the Oriva Hills subdivision, which was hit by a tornado on June 1, Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King discussed the failure of the siren system and a plan to implement an app to help improve the system.
The cause was in the failure of an uninterruptable power supply at the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office radio tower. The city’s power service was never interrupted during the storm.
The problem occurred with a battery backup that was fed by the city’s power supply but somehow prevented that power from being delivered to the system.
No one expected the storm that eventually spawned four tornadoes in the area that day. Early that morning, the National Weather Service was predicting a marginal risk of thunderstorms, King said.
King said he was on vacation that day and had to coordinate the response remotely.
The first advisories went out at 7:54 a.m., which at that point were not serious. It wasn’t until 11:55 a.m. that the National Weather Service was warning of severe thunderstorms.
The warnings went “code red,” as King put it, at 12:42 p.m. He sent out an email warning of the growing severity of the storm, which was over Pumpkin Buttes by that point.
It wasn’t until 1:30 p.m. that a storm spotter reported the tornado at the Eight Mile subdivision.
The first attempt to trigger the sirens was at 1:37 p.m.
“The sirens did not go into wail,” King said.
King said, while the mishap was unfortunate, they have a much greater understanding of the system. They are working on developing a phone app, which will allow people to report to emergency management during a test.
That kind of feedback will help them maintain and improve the system.
There were no deaths and only minor injuries from the June 1 tornadoes.