We hear them every Monday at noon but fear them if sounded during stormy weather when tornados threaten our community. The Thunderbolt Sirens have a rich history and are being celebrated this weekend including a special exhibit at the Historical Museum opening this Sunday.
The Sirens were originally installed in 1952 during the “Cold War” that followed WWII, at a time when the United States was threatened by nuclear war. The Thunderbolt Siren system was installed to warn citizens to take cover in atomic fallout shelters located in churches, schools and public buildings. Today we think of this public safety device in terms of weather warnings.
On June 11, 1958, the day following a deadly tornado occurring in neighboring El Dorado, KS, a similar storm approached Wichita. Sergeant Paul Hanson of the Wichita Police Department went to extraordinary measures to activate the siren system to send Wichita residents to shelter, saving lives and prompting the use of the system as a tornado warning.
The Thunderbolt Sirens have remained a part of a vast siren alert system that remains in service throughout Sedgwick County. Several “Thunderbolts” have been restored at the urging of vintage siren enthusiasts and will continue to serve for years to come.
The Sedgwick County Office of Emergency Management celebrates the “Thunderbolts” with a re-dedication ceremony held this Saturday, March 4th at 10:00 am on the grounds of Fire Station 32 in Park City, 7750 N. Wyandotte Wy. where the oldest Thunderbolt will reside and continue to serve the community. The ceremony includes a ribbon cutting, remarks by Officials and other guests, as well as attendance by family members of key volunteers and civil servants who pioneered the warning system.