Local News

Siren silent during flash flood

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - Monday afternoon, Ken Cisek was sitting watching TV when he heard loud noises outside.

"Just a loud rush like that, sounded like a freight train," Cisek said.

For the next hour, Cisek was helplessly trapped inside his home as a torrent of flood water crashed by.

"Nowhere to go and no place to get out and away from it until the water went down," Cisek said.

Cisek says he thought he would hear another sound before he heard the flood water.

"I think everybody was under the assumption that there would be some type of warning," Cisek said.

Manitou Springs just installed a brand new, $25,000 siren last December to alert residents to tornados, fires and floods. But on Monday, it was silent.

"I pushed the button to activate the siren and it didn't go.  I pushed it again, I did it three times.  I tried to diagnose very quickly what was wrong, but I felt like I was very much in danger here, so I closed it up and went on to the next task," said Manitou Police Chief Joe Ribeiro.

The box that activates the siren is a few dozen feet from the police station's front door, but also just a couple feet from the edge of Fountain Creek that was raging on Monday.

Ribeiro says initially he thought the siren malfunctioned.  But the next day he tested it again.

"In a much more calmer mode, and I did it like I was supposed to, it worked as we expected," Ribeiro said.  "Led me to believe the error was in the human operator."

The siren can be started by telephone.  Manitou city officials, the El Paso County EOC and Ribeiro have the codes, but he didn't use it because he thought the siren wasn't working.

Ribeiro says he is hoping to automate the system with sensors placed in creek beds to set off the siren when water comes, but that funding could take months to secure.  He says residents shouldn't count on the siren to warn them danger is coming.

"Part of the message all along was don't wait for the siren, don't rely on the siren, if we're able to do it, we'll do it," Ribeiro said.

It's a message that at least Cisek didn't hear either.

"I think everybody was under the assumption that there would be some type of a warning," Cisek said.

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