Despite risks, Colorado communities shifting away from tornado sirens

WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- Weld County is known as Colorado's tornado capitol for good reason. Since 1950, there have been more recorded tornadoes in Weld County than in any other county in the country. Despite that, numerous communities still don't have or use outdoor emergency sirens.

That includes Greeley, the largest city in the county.

"It's cost-prohibitive," says Greeley Emergency Manager Dan Frazen. "The technology is now cell phones, social media, TV and radio."

Frazen says Greeley considered adding the outdoor sirens in 2008, after a deadly tornado tore through nearby Windsor.

Each community in Weld County decides whether or not to install and pay for the sirens. Greeley ultimately decided against it.

"When they did look at it, it was about a $1 million project. They had to look at who could hear these when they went off, and typically it was just people nearby to where they were located," Frazen said.

These days, Frazen says people in Greeley rely on CodeRED, an emergency alert system that sends messages to your phone. People still need to sign up for it, otherwise they won't receive the alerts.

Just outside Greeley, in Eaton, outdoor sirens don't exist either.

Milena Sorrentino says she wishes they would have existed back in 2008.

"When that Windsor tornado came through, it passed us by, but it would have been nice to have some sort of warning," she says.

From her home, she can hear sirens from nearby Ault and Severance, which both received sirens as part of a grant following the Windsor tornado.

"After it happened, for a couple of days people were walking around like zombies. They just couldn't imagine that it could have hit there," Sorrentino said. "The whole thing was very, very scary."

Sorrentino says she's downloaded a number of apps, including the FOX31 app, to be alerted in case of dangerous weather.

"I have all of these things on my cell phone now," she says. "You have to be prepared."

Are there sirens in your area?

Below is a list of large Front Range communities that responded to our requests for updates on existing sirens:

YES: Denver, Aurora, Brighton, Boulder, Commerce City, Wheat Ridge

NO: Arvada, Fort Collins, Greeley, Windsor, Loveland, Longmont, Thornton, Westminster

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