Lafayette's tornado sirens mistakenly sounded for a full eight minutes just after 3 a.m. Thursday following what city and law enforcement officials are describing as a yet-to-be-diagnosed technical glitch.
Cmdr. Heidi Prentup of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said the sirens were triggered at 3:07 a.m. by a pager notification for an unrelated police operation. The sirens sounded until dispatchers — alerted by incoming calls from concerned Lafayette residents — shut them down at 3:15 a.m.
Because of the heavy tornado activity earlier in the day, some Lafayette residents said they believed the false alarms were real.
"My wife and I both woke up at the same time and thought, 'Get the kids in the basement,'" Lafayette resident Steve Rodda said. "When it goes off at 3 p.m. and I look around and nothing's going on, I think it's a test.
"But after a day full of warnings, in the middle of the night, the first thing in my mind is that it could be real."
Debbie Wilmot, a spokeswoman for the city of Lafayette, said officials are not yet sure what ultimately caused the sirens to go off.
Prentup said a software issue appears to be at the heart of the problem, but that the matter is still under investigation.
Boulder County and much of the Front Range were under a tornado watch Wednesday afternoon, but that watch was cancelled for Boulder County at 6:45 p.m.
The Denver metro area did see eight tornadoes touch down Wednesday, including three in Aurora and one in east Denver.
After the sirens went off, Rodda said he turned on his TV and radio looking for news, but didn't see anything about Lafayette. He then went to the city's website, but found the site had crashed, and said there was no way to find out what was going on.
"That's the part that frustrates me," Rodda said. "A false alarm wakes people up at 3 in the morning? That happens. I get it.
"But the fact that nobody said anything after the alarms went off didn't seem right to me."
But fellow Lafayette resident Raman Sinha said he wasn't frustrated by the false alarm.
"At least we know the sirens work," he said. "It's the first time it's happened in a very long time. Given the context of what's been going on the past few days, I'm OK with it."
Then there were some residents who were frustrated because they didn't wake up to the sirens.
David Rodriguez, who lives near LaMont Does Park, said he went to sleep with his windows open and never heard the alarms.
"I slept through the whole night, which is worrisome," he said. "I'd be sleeping with the fishes if it was a real thing,"
Prentup did say officials are not sure whether all seven of the city's sirens went off or just a few.
Rodriguez said he believes Lafayette should at one point stage a siren test at night — on purpose — to make sure they are loud enough to wake people up.
"I know some people wouldn't like it, but I'm all for whatever it takes to get things right," Rodriguez said. "When you least expect it, that's when bad things happen."