Tornado Sirens Mistakenly Sound in SW Illinois County

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

Friday, Nov 22, 2013  |  Updated 1:34 PM CDT
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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)

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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.

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.

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