Tornado siren changes for Russell County

By Derek Kinkade   - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "We were over-warning our citizens.  They were times when they were hearing the outdoor warning sirens go off, and they were not affected by the storm."

These were the sentiments of Katherine Russell, the Director of the Lee County EMA in regard to tornado warnings.  Russell and others in Lee County were worried about their citizens becoming complacent during severe weather.  It was a concern shared with their neighboring county.

"If we had a storm in the southern part of the county and the sun could be basically shining in the northern half of the county, then the people on the north side were wondering why we're blowing the weather siren," said Bob Franklin, the Deputy Director of the Russell County EMA.

In 2007, the National Weather Service stopped issuing storm warnings for entire counties.  Instead, they now draw a box, or polygon, around the area most likely to be affected by severe weather.  Lee County was the first EMA office in the state, and possibly the nation, to synchronize their sirens to this new system earlier this year.  Now Russell County has become the second.

"Now when you hear these sirens, I think you should take more heed because you know you are in the path of the tornado and at that point you really should be seeking shelter," Franklin said.

It's new technology that Russell hopes will give people exactly what they want during an emergency.

"Accurate information that applies to them -- something that they can count on," she added.

©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.