STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – It turns out it may never be known why a tornado siren started blaring at 11 p.m. Sunday in Struthers.
Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency officials said Tuesday that the siren went off on its own and would not accept cancellation messages from EMA headquarters. It had to be physically disabled by shutting off the electricity and taking out the battery.
The EMA said even though the siren was a malfunction, people did the right thing by contacting police and the media to find out what was going on.
“Grateful that citizens are paying attention to the tones and turning to the media as to what was going on,” said Mahoning County EMA Interim Director Dennis O’Hara.
O’Hara said the alarm, which blared for two hours, made a sound they had never heard, something similar to a British police siren.
He said staff attempted to shut off the alarm from EMA headquarters, but could not do so because of the alarm’s emergency battery backup. A technician had to climb up to the alarm, located at Struthers High School, and shut it off.
O’Hara said so many calls were coming in to local police departments that no phone line was available to call the EMA. Police eventually relayed the information via cell phone.
O’Hara added that the cause of the alarm will probably never be known, but it is being repaired.
Struthers residents demanded answers Sunday night when the alarm went off.
“I’d never heard an alarm like that before,” said Heather Baker.
“I heard the loud noise go off. My first reaction was what was going on,” said Tara McClelland.
The women didn’t know the siren was blaring for no reason and thought the worst.
“My first thought in my mind was that there’s a bomb. Someone is bombing us and I don’t know what to do,” McClelland said.
Baker lives a few blocks away from the siren, and she said it rattled her doors.
McClelland lives in Lowellville several miles away. The siren woke up the children in both houses.
“My kids were still scared. They were coming downstairs wondering what was going on,” Baker said.
Both moms called their local police departments. It took an hour for Baker to get through because so many other people in Struthers were calling.
And in Lowellville, even dispatchers didn’t know how to answer.
“The police department didn’t really reassure me very well because they didn’t know what was going on either,” McClelland said.