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'Scream-Master' Cold War siren revealed as blaring alarm in East Sacramento

Sacramento public library archivist James Scott said these sirens were strategically placed around the city.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — A blaring siren rattled eardrums and sent East Sacramento neighbors stumbling out of their homes Monday night.

"I came out of my house with my fingers over my ears; it was that loud," said Judy Semple, a neighbor in the area.

Semple said the deafening noise came from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District facility on 59th Street, and officials said they've learned it was from an old civil defense project.

ABC10 confirmed that the blaring siren came from a tower on SMUD property. It's known as a "Scream-Master," a siren brand that was manufactured in the 1950s at the dawn of the Cold War.

"That is easily the most prolific type within the area," said Carson McGee.

McGee is a siren enthusiast out of Oklahoma. He helped identify the model, which can be found scattered across Sacramento.

Sacramento public library archivist James Scott said these sirens were strategically placed around the city.

"Sacramento was a target. I mean, it just was a target," Scott said.

Considering nearby airbases like McClellan and Mather and the water towers and utilities in the area, Scott said it wasn't surprising to have these "vestiges of the Cold War past."

While officials said they're working to learn more about this old system, ABC10 found documents highlighting their modern use. A map in the city's 2008 evacuation plan, shows 22 active sirens in Sacramento's emergency siren system, which was first installed during World War II to alert the public of air raids.

When activated, the public should tune into local news media for an emergency announcement, but these plans have been seemingly forgotten.

"I would hate for this to become a story of some relic of a bygone era rearing it's ugly head and annoying people...," McGee said.

McGee added that he hopes the incident inspires emergency officials to reactivate the systems for modern disasters such as wildfires or flooding.

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