Some smaller rural cities are looking at installing storm sirens, but they won't be able to afford the cost without help.
Some of the smaller rural cities in Jasper County are looking at installing storm sirens, but they won't be able to afford the cost without help.
Two Jasper County Commissioners and officials from Neck City and Carytown met with a sales representative for a company that sells storm sirens and an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office to talk about possible federal grant money to buy sirens for rural Jasper County.
Pat Gooch, Mayor of Neck City, said his community needs one and so do his neighbors in Purcell and Alba.
"Right now, our emergency warning system is, and this is a direct quote from a lady, 'What the hell are those trucks doing running around with their sirens on?'" Gooch said. "That is the emergency siren in case of a tornado, one of the people that lives in the area that is part of the Tri-Cities Fire Department, grabs a truck and runs up and down the streets with the sirens on."
Gooch said properly placed sirens in the three communities could cover a population of more than 2,500 people inside and outside those cities.
The May 4, 2003, tornado that carved a path through Carl Junction died out just as it was coming to the Alba and Purcell area, damaging some trees and a few homes in that area.
That same tornado earlier in the day destroyed the small community of Smithfield west of Carl Junction, killing two people, and left a path of hundreds of damaged and destroyed homes in northern Carl Junction.
"We're going to do it one way or the other," Gooch said. "We're building a recycling center and Empire's coming in to put in the poles for that, that's why I was asking if they could use an existing pole. Without the grant we probably couldn't afford it, but that's why we're talking to these people."
Shawn Lance, sales representative for SafetyCom Inc., quoted a price of slightly less than $20,000 for a high quality siren with wireless trigger, battery backup in case of power outage, a 55-foot pole to mount it on and shipping.
Jim D. Hembree, with the Rural Development office in Carthage, said grants are available to communities from the USDA to provide between 15 percent and 75 percent of the cost of buying and installing a siren, depending on the average incomes of the residents of a community.
Patti Bowman, a trustee in Carytown said she was at the meeting to collect information and see if a siren would help her community.
Bowman said Carytown's population of a little more than 220 is spread over more than 15 square miles making it difficult for one siren to cover the entire community.
"Carytown is a farming community, we don't have the same structure of a lot of these other cities," Bowman said. "We're about 15 square miles and that's why I was asking about the topography because there will be some folks that, based on where the siren is, they wouldn't even be able to hear it. If they're off on their tractor in a low point, you might not hear it."
Jasper County Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said he and Commissioner Darieus Adams will identify the areas that currently have sirens before looking for the areas that need them.
The two will also examine the possibility of the county emergency dispatch center setting off the sirens for any community that would like this service.
Stammer said sirens are for areas where people gather out doors, and won't likely be heard by someone in a modern home.
"They are for places like ball diamonds and parks where people gather out doors," Stammer said. "Modern homes are so well insulated that people inside probably won't hear a siren that's any distance away. For those people a weather alert radio that can be programmed to pick up a signal from the National Weather Service is probably the best way to go."