PARK CITY — You wouldn’t think a siren would have fans, but sirens like the Thunderbolt have likely saved many lives. That’s why the oldest one operating in Sedgwick County drew a crowd to its rededication ceremony here last month. The siren blares from Fire Station 32, 7750 N. Wyandotte Way.
The Thunderbolt sirens originally were installed in 1952 during the Cold War that followed World War II when the United States was threatened by nuclear war, according to a news release from the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. The Thunderbolt Siren system was installed to warn citizens to take cover in atomic fallout shelters located in churches, schools and public buildings. Today they are part of a system used for weather warnings.
The news release goes on to say that on June 11, 1958, the day following a deadly tornado occurring in neighboring El Dorado, 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 shelters, saving lives and prompting the use of the system as a tornado warning.
Several Thunderbolts have been restored at the urging of vintage siren enthusiasts and will continue to serve for years to come.