Officials should look at ways to expand use of city’s siren system

Published 11:00am Sunday, June 15, 2014

Last week’s storm reminded us all yet again how powerless we are when confronted by severe weather.

Many area residents awoke Friday morning to yards filled with small tree limbs and no electricity after strong thunderstorms, packing heavy rain and straight-line winds, plowed through southwest Mississippi during the night.

Some damage was more severe. Initial reports from the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil Defense and Emergency Management Agency Friday afternoon showed nine homes with major damage and eight homes and two businesses with minor damage, plus numerous roadways blocked by storm debris. The fact that no injuries were reported in Lincoln County is certainly reason for thanksgiving though.

With toppled trees scattered throughout the area, and downed power lines a common sight, electric outages were widespread. On Friday morning Entergy reported 5,458 area customers without power and Magnolia Electric had around 2,000 out.

When severe weather like the recent storm threatens, it’s always wise to be prepared. Some locals posted on social media that they cranked up the generators they bought after Hurricane Katrina so they could have their morning coffee and a hot breakfast.

Being prepared is always a wise action, particularly when it comes to bad weather. While not available in the county, Brookhaven does have storm sirens as of last year, but they were silent during last week’s storm. The reason, according to Brookhaven-Lincoln County civil defense director Clifford Galey is that the city’s sirens are only activated for a tornado warning.

While the recent winds – estimated as high as 60 miles an hour by the Jackson office of the National Weather service – were certainly capable of inflicting considerable damage and potential injuries, they did not have the rotation of a tornado and no tornado warning was issued for the area that night.

In light of the hazard that storms like the recent one can cause, we encourage our city officials to look at ways the siren system might be used to alert residents of severe storms that don’t fall into the tornado category. Perhaps, some kind of system could be worked out to sound a quick burst on the sirens to alert residents of severe storms like the one that hit last week. Then a full, long siren blast could be sounded repeatedly for a tornado warning.

However, some have argued that sounding the sirens for anything other than a tornado warning will lessen their effectiveness.

Meanwhile, we encourage all residents with smart phones to sign up for a weather alert app. The apps, which are readily available from a variety of sources, will sound an alert on your phone when various kinds of dangerous weather conditions develop.

Another excellent option for preparedness is the purchase of a weather radio. These, too, are readily available.

There’s an old saying that everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Well, actually, we can at least be vigilant and take precautions. Brookhaven’s new siren system is a wonderful step in that direction; however, our officials might need to look a little further into the potential ways it can serve our citizens.