Okmulgee residents shocked when lightening fires up 1940s tornado siren

Folks in Okmulgee got an early morning wake-up call Friday morning. Their sirens went off for 45 minutes. (KTUL)

There’s a lot of talk around the town square in Okmulgee.

“I haven’t met with too many people, really everyone is talking about these vegetables,” said Laveron Gray, while selling fruits and veggies at the farmers market.

A couple of days ago, Gray said everyone was talking about how the power went out.

“Come to find out, it was a squirrel,” said Gray.

On Friday, the talk was about how a tornado siren was turned on.

“We slept through it, if they went off I never heard them,” said Bob and Dotty McDoniel.

At 5 a.m. Friday, when everyone was probably moving in slow motion, lightning fired up a 1940s tornado siren for 45 minutes.

“Normally we blow our sirens for three minutes and shut down,” said Ken Anderson, with Okmulgee City Emergency Management.

Anderson was the one who had to figure out how to turn the old siren off. He said it’s the first time a siren has gone off in Okmulgee in 10 years.

“The biggest thing is, we don’t want to do it so much because you call woof,” said Anderson. “They don’t pay any attention to it when it goes off, when they need to pay attention. So we’re real selective.”

Anderson said the city has a red alert system that automatically calls people if Mother Nature starts acting up. He said they haven’t had a tornado come near Okmulgee in a long time, but they’ve had to use the phone system for flooding and power outages.

“I’m the one who has the finger on the button. We watch the weather, all the (television) stations,” said Anderson. “I coordinate with the county wide emergency management.”

Though Wade Hall and Barbara Pollard are sharing a bench outside their shops, they’re divide on when cities should sound the siren.

“I think really, in a dire situation,” said Pollard.

“Living in Oklahoma, I would say err on the side of caution,” said Hall.

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