Tornado Sirens Mistakenly Sound in SW Illinois County

County's emergency management chief says it was "human error"

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    Tornado damaged homes are seen on November 18, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. A fast-moving storm system that spawned multiple tornadoes which touched down across the Midwest, leaving behind a path of destruction in 12 states. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

    Five days after deadly tornadoes tore through portions of Illinois, many residents of a southwestern Illinois county got an unnerving wakeup from tornado sirens that authorities say went off accidentally.

    The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the sirens sounded for several minutes about 5 a.m. Friday in St. Clair County even though there was no sign of threatening weather.

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    The county's emergency management chief, Herb Simmons, says it was "human error" by someone who simply hit a wrong button. Simmons says that operator "felt terrible about it," and that mistakes happen because "we're people, not machines."

    He believes it's the only time in more than a decade that the warning sirens were engaged accidentally.

    Simmons says residents startled by the sirens called their local police and Simmons' office.