City Task Force To Look At Implementing Tornado Sirens - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/26/08

City Task Force To Look At Implementing Tornado Sirens

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The City of Lubbock is reviewing the way citizens are warned of severe weather. And they have asked NewsChannel 11 for help.

Mayor David Miller has asked Chief Meteorologist John Robison and News Director Benji Snead to be part of the severe weather task force. One item the group will consider is whether an outdoor warning system would be effective in Lubbock. NewsChannel 11 did some research Tuesday and learned that Lubbock is one of the few cities its size without this type of system.

Amarillo and Midland have tornado sirens to warn their residents. While Abilene and Plainview do not have sirens, they warn residents of inclement weather through a telephone service know as Code Red.

Levelland, Floydada, Slaton, Littlefield, Crosbyton, Idalou and Shallowater all have tornado sirens. So why doesn't Lubbock offer this type of system? It comes down to money and whether or not taxpayers are willing to pay.

No sirens rang out when the tornado of 1970 struck downtown Lubbock. 26 lives lost, some never had a chance because they had no warning.

"It turns out that several of those people were in fact outdoors when they were not aware of the warning and lost their lives," says Candace Cyrek, a Texas Tech graduate student.

Cyrek believes lives could have been saved if an outdoor warning system had been in place. Now Cyrek is taking steps to prevent history from repeating itself.

"We're going to be passing out contact information to city council members and also a letter that members of the community can sign if they are interested in having city council further investigate the possibility of having tornado sirens," says Cyrek.

The city's current warning system includes the use of guys like Chief Meteorologist John Robison and the NOAA weather radio. But the city is taking a closer look at implementing tornado sirens.

"What the mayor is doing is he's putting a task force together to take a look at what we do have in place right now," says Kevin Overstreet, Emergency Management Services for the City of Lubbock.

It's been 30 plus years since tornado sirens were used here in Lubbock. Most have been taken down but there is proof that at one time they did blare out a warning that's because one siren still stands at old fire station four.

In order to be effective, city officials say we need 150 tornado sirens. Each siren costs $25,000. Add the cost of installing them and taxpayers are looking at a $4 million plus project.

"Bottom line is it's all about the will of the people," says Overstreet.

"It's up to families to be prepared, but the city should be able to warn people if they're outside in city limits there is a danger," says Cyrek.

If you are interested in signing a letter asking city council to consider implementing an outdoor warning system, copies will be available at the Science Spectrum this Saturday at Severe Weather Awareness Day. NewsChannel 11 will also be on hand to program weather radios and sign people up for First Alert Thunder Call.

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