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Storm siren fails during tornado warning

A tornado touched down northeast of Denton as severe weather moved throughout the county Tuesday evening.

Residents in Aubrey and Tioga reported hearing outdoor sirens after the area was placed under a tornado warning, but Pilot Point’s sirens remained silent.

“The city has [two] outside warning sirens in town,” wrote Pilot Point Fire Department Chief Heath Hudson in a Facebook comment April 17. “Both are out of service. The units are so old we can no longer get parts to repair them.”

City Manager Alan Guard, however, said he was surprised that the siren on McKinney Street failed to activate because it had worked during a test earlier in the month. City workers investigated the issue and found electrical problems, but they bought a new battery and plan to eventually test the siren again. A second siren, located near Pilot Point High School, has been out of service for several years, Guard said.

Guard said the city was awarded a grant last year for the upgrade of its two sirens, “but the Governor’s office decided to reallocate that money to hurricane-affected areas.”

Once a tornado warning was issued for Aubrey a few minutes before 7 p.m., Fire Department Chief Michael Starr called the county to have it activate the city’s three sirens. The system is “not that old,” he said, and can be activated by the county or city through a portable radio.

Starr said he heard a Pilot Point Fire Department official providing notification that it had triggered the city’s sirens. The tornado warning lasted only a short period in Aubrey, Starr said, so its sirens were shut off in minutes.

Through its doppler radar, the National Weather Service had picked up strong velocity winds next to each other but going in opposite directions.

“That shows us that we’re getting a good possibility of a tornado occurring,” said Matt Bishop, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office.

At about 6:56 p.m., a tornado touched down near Texas Woman’s University by East Sherman Drive and U.S. 377 in Denton.

"It was mostly tree damage,” Bishop said.

There were also reports of trees down near Justin and roof damage in Eagle Mountain, Tarrant County.

The area would remain in a very active weather pattern, so storms were expected again on Friday. Saturday looks clear, Bishop said, but showers and thunderstorms look likely for Sunday.

Having a plan for tornados, such as moving to a closet in a central location inside your home is a good idea, Bishop said, but the bigger threat to people and property is flash flooding. An hour or two of very heavy rain can cause enough flooding in certain low areas, such as feeder roads off of interstates, to strand your car, he said.

The Denton County Office of Emergency Management assisted with a rescue in the Justin area, Assistant Chief Roland Asebedo said. The agency also had its emergency operations center manned and storm spotters stationed across the county.

He recommended residents subscribe to emergency alerts through mobile phone applications.

Outdoor warning signs are designed for people outdoors and not for people in their houses.

“That is old technology,” he said. “Those are not efficient. That’s why we encourage people to utilize modern technology that provides them with up-to-the-minute information that is accurate and can provide them more information than a siren."

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