TOWN OF BURKE, S.D. (AP) — As a small town in southern South Dakota recovers from a tornado that caused extensive damage and destroyed its civic center, some residents are asking why the community’s warning siren didn’t sound.
The EF-1 tornado carrying 100 mph (160 kph) winds ripped through the Town of Burke Tuesday night, tearing roofs off homes and other buildings, uprooting trees and leaving the school building unusable with the new school year fast approaching. Two men suffered minor injuries when a garage collapsed.
Gov. Kristi Noem visited the community Wednesday and called the damage “unbelievable.” Noem promised the state’s help in restoration efforts.
“I know they’ll be strong getting through this situation,” she said.
Burke Mayor Thomas Glover told the Argus Leader that the siren is sounded when officials get notification from the National Weather Service or a spotter that a tornado has been seen or is imminent. That warning never came, although a tornado did touch down in the area.
“We didn’t get any notification,” Glover said.
National Weather Service chief meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said that although the possibility of tornadoes was mentioned in the severe thunderstorm warning for Gregory County, a tornado warning was not issued because meteorologists did not see any indications that one was coming.
“The main threat to Burke was the straight-line winds,” Heitkamp said, adding that it’s up to the affected community to decide whether to sound the alarm.