Orion storm siren didn’t sound due to downed phone line

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ORION, Illinois -- Storm sirens failed to sound in Orion, Illinois, during Wednesday's storms due to a downed phone line.

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at least two tornadoes touched down in Henry County. According to the National Weather Service, an EF-1 tornado traveled 2.06 miles through Hooppole, Illinois, and another EF-1 tornado began southeast of Sherrard and traveled more than 8 miles through Henry and Mercer Counties.

Although Orion avoided the worst of the storms and the damage, residents were concerned after the town's siren failed to sound.

"When James Zahara said, 'I believe the sirens will be going off,' I made a point of listening for the sirens. I did not hear them," said Orion resident Bill Stoeber. "At that point, I went downstairs into my basement."

On Thursday, Henry County Sheriff Jim Padilla explained that dispatchers and the Orion Fire Department tried to activate the sirens, but they received a "rapid, busy-type signal" on the line.

"Of all the days for that to happen, it happened on the worst weather day that we had with the most severe weather outbreak that we've had this year," said Padilla. "Fortunately, no one was hurt."

Padilla said issues from earlier in the year have been fixed, and the siren has been working properly during monthly tests.

However, with no way to activate the siren manually, county leaders must rely on the phone system.

"We just don't like those weather outbreaks coming the way they did last night, particularly with the situation we ran into with the phone lines. That was not a good situation to be in at all," said Padilla.

No injuries have been reported from Wednesday night's storms.

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