Broken tornado siren confusing Port Washington residents

Police say it's due to damaged phone cables

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. - A tornado siren in Port Washington has been going off randomly the last several days, creating confusion for nearby residents.

The siren, located on the city's north side near Wisconsin and Monroe Streets, has been malfunctioning according to police. People who live nearby say it's been waking them up in the middle of the night.

"One night [there were] strong winds so we didn't know if it was a tornado or not," said Jill Foxen, who lives across the street from the malfunctioning siren. "We looked on my phone and it wasn't. Other times, we've just kind of been blowing it off cause it's just been going off so much."

According to Port Washington Police, who maintain the sirens for the city, a section of buried phone cable needed to be repaired. A crew with AT&T went to the site Monday and fixed the issue.

Port Washington has four tornado sirens, three of them are more than 50 years old.

Brian Love knows first hand how old they are because he says he actually helped build the one that's been malfunctioning.

"It's in the weather, these things are bound to happen," he said.

Tornado sirens in Wisconsin are maintained by individual municipalities and not counties or the state, so cities and towns would have to pay for any repairs.

In Port Washington, police said it was cost $23,000 each to replace the aging sirens.

But police also said the sirens were designed to alert people outdoors. They recommend people also have an alternative warning system in place such as a phone alert or a weather radio.

Even though the one near Love's home has been going off a lot, he says he's not ignoring them.

"You don't want to get into that because we're getting into tornado season and you just never know," he said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, tornado season typically runs from April to September with the most occurring in May, June and July.

The state averages about 20 tornadoes per year.

The Ozaukee County Department of Emergency Management says it does keep track of where tornado sirens are located, how old they are, and how they operate but does not provide funding for municipalities to repair the sirens.

The county could help find grant funding or provide funding in an emergency situation. Port Washington police says it's confident the malfunctioning siren has been repaired. 

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