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Denver’s tornado siren system to get major overhaul

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DENVER -- In the age of TV news, the Internet and Twitter, tornado sirens are still our primary source for tornado warnings.

But now we're learning those systems aren't as reliable as they were when they were installed 60 years ago and Denver's aging system is in desperate need of an overhaul.

"The tornado sirens that we have are getting on in years. Most of the sirens were installed during the 1950’s," says Scott Fields of the Denver Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Out of the 77 warning sirens throughout the city and county of Denver, 56 of them need to be replaced. In fact, last Wednesday's monthly system check determined the siren at 43rd and Dahlia was not working correctly and did not sound it's alarm during the tornado warning later that day.

"Some of the problems we have with tornado sirens in some of the other communities over the weekend ... we lost power to them and the sirens didn’t activate," Fields adds.

Fields is talking about what happened to warning systems during a deadly tornado outbreak in the Midwest.

The city is now working on a complete overhaul of the tornado siren system.

"The new sirens next year will be battery operated and solar charged," Fields says.

The $2 million project is expected to bring in state-of-the-art sirens throughout Denver and should be up and running by the 2013 severe weather season, which runs April through September.

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, Colorado is testing its statewide tornado emergency warning system.

The test will run Tuesday morning at about 10:00am. Denver and Aurora officials say they will not participate because they already tested their siren system last week.

TV viewers will see tornado warnings on their screens, but it will only be a test. There is no risk of tornadoes in Colorado Tuesday.