Jackson Co. repairing tornado sirens after computer glitch - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Jackson Co. repairing tornado sirens after computer glitch

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JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning Tuesday evening that included Jackson County.

When officials tried to activate the tornado sirens to alert the area, nothing sounded.

"My staff went to set the sirens off and discovered that they weren't working," said Sheriff David Lucas simply.

Lucas calls it an unexplainable problem given the recent work done to all the sirens.

"It was kind of strange," he said, "because this past Saturday, they spent the day changing the batteries out on all of [the sirens] and doing audible tests on them, and they worked."

The sheriff's staff also tests the system silently every night using a remote controller in the office.

The device sends a signal from the sheriff's office in Newport to the Jackson County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) facility in Diaz and would normally switch on the sirens.

The connection, however, failed Tuesday and has not worked since.

It appears the computer network connecting the sirens throughout the county malfunctioned, making them all inoperable. Emergency workers could not activate them manually either.

"We just went into what I would call a recovery mode to try to figure out okay, they're not working," Lucas said. "What do we need to do to get the word out?"

The sheriff sent out his deputies Tuesday to alert people using sirens from their patrol cars. They also alerted the local media and switched radio frequencies so that people could pick up their scanner traffic.

"We'd do that again if it ever comes up again," said Jeff Phillips, the Jackson County judge. "We want people to be safe."

Phillips now plans to bring in some help to find the flaws in the system and correct them.

"We're going to do everything we can to assure everyone that this won't happen again," Phillips said. "Of course, it's electronic. You never can tell, but Saturday, [the sirens] were working. We replaced batteries and did some tests and they were working, so between Saturday and now, I don't know what happened."

A technician is expected to come as early as Friday to inspect the entire system.

County officials are unsure when they will have the sirens back online, so now they are hoping that the extended forecast contains no severe weather.

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