Emergency sirens failed to sound in Sauk Centre on Sunday when strong winds whipped through the central Minnesota city, uprooting hundreds of trees and causing widespread damage.
Mayor Brad Kirckof said a citywide power outage was to blame for the siren failure. He said city and county officials tried to activate the sirens at about 8:15 p.m., but the entire city had lost power and the sirens did not sound.
Within a few minutes, 95 mph straight line winds blew through the city. Officials closed the city at 8:30 p.m. so that roads could be cleared of downed trees and power lines. No one was reported injured.
The city does not have backup power for its seven sirens. Kirckof said his city is one of many throughout the state that do not have backup power for older sirens. Officials are trying to determine how much it would cost to replace the sirens, but Kirckof said he expects it could be tens of thousands of dollars.
"That's a tremendous investment for a community of our size, that continues to get their revenues cut and have a lack of funding like all cities do," he said.
Washington County experienced a similar siren failure during a tornado warning in May. The county's equipment to activate individual sirens lost power and failed to activate most of the sirens.
In Washington County, officials didn't notice the failure until police officers called 10 minutes later to say that the sirens weren't working. No one was injured, but as the storm moved across Minneapolis, it killed one person and injured dozens.
Officials in Sauk Centre noticed the failure right away, Kirckof said. Many residents had been tracking the storm online and through local media and had taken shelter.
"You can anticipate everything, but you don't necessarily anticipate that your entire city's going to be out of power at one time," he said.
The city has posted storm cleanup resources on its website.