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Silence in Nickerson highlights problems with tornado siren, severe-weather concerns

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:43 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As part of a statewide test Tuesday morning, tornado sirens went off across Kansas. But there was silence in the city of Nickerson, a silence that is becoming harder to ignore after the city’s sirens stopped working.

‘They used to go off every Monday, but quit doing that. When we did have a tornado just outside of town, they didn’t go off,” said Nickerson Mayor Peggy Ruebke.

It’s part of an ongoing problem in Nickerson for almost 10 years. Part of the issue is that small towns don’t often have the funding they need for updates to equipment like tornado sirens. Nickerson Mayor Peggy Ruebke said the city’s tornado sirens are old and in need of an update. But getting that done would cost about $500,000.

“I would love to see a grant. We want to hear from residents, you know. This is their town,” Ruebke said. “This is about them and we want to makes sure that they feel they’re secure. So if this is something we need to more actively look at, then we can. But a lot of people have told us, you know, they don’t want the tax dollars going for something that they already have a cell phone for.”

The problem raises concerns every severe weather season, especially for the older population that doesn’t rely as much on computer and cellphone technology. But Nickerson does not have the money to fix the current system. For now, the city is relying on technology and asking its residents to sign up for Everbridge, a digital alert system that sends out severe-weather notifications based on zip codes. The Storm Team 12 weather app is also worth having on your phone. Even when sirens are working, you might not hear them if you’re inside.

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