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In response to Okla. tornado, chief stresses preparedness


    The Roper Park siren, along with all other tornado sirens in the county, are tested the first Wednesday of each month at noon. Tornado sirens go off when a tornado warning is issued or if a storm is capable of producing 80 m.p.h.+ winds.

     In an effort to improve severe weather warnings for Pickens residents utilizing outdoor facilities at Roper Park, the county has recently installed a new grant-funded tornado siren near the covered picnic area.
    Pickens County Chief Bob Howard says  warnings such as sirens and the CodeRED phone system are instrumental to public safety, and in light of the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. on Monday he stresses the importance of preparedness for  severe weather events. 

    “Especially for those with modular homes they need to find a place to relocate before tornado warnings go out,” he said. “Those things are death traps. They need to know when the weather service calls for severe conditions. There is only a lead time of 10 minutes for tornadoes, and that’s not enough  in a bad situation.”   
    Howard, who called Oklahoma’s tornado “saddening because of the high loss of life,”  said while Pickens doesn’t typically see twisters of that magnitude, smaller EF-2 or EF-3 category tornadoes still produce incredible damage.
    “There was so much life lost in Oklahoma, and that’s in a part of the country where they are aware of a tornado’s destructive powers,” he said. “That storm was so strong you almost had to be underground to survive. But in Pickens, where we’ve only had two EF-4s, the smaller tornadoes we get will still demolish mobile homes and cause serious damage. Everyone needs an emergency plan.”
    Howard said beyond knowing where you will go if severe weather strikes, more residents should utilize the CodeRED warning system, which is free.
    “We only have 5,000 people signed up. That’s not enough,” he said. “We implemented the CodeRED warning system a few years back because people who are signed up get warnings inside, on their house phone and cell phones,”
    Howard said while sirens are perfect for areas with a high volume of outdoor activity such as Roper Park, they don’t work as well for residents indoors.
    “With the outdoor sirens you can’t hear them if you are inside, especially during storms that drown them out,” he said. “We also have a very hilly landscape and they don’t carry that far.”
    Howard said there are 16 other sirens located in Pickens, and that beyond the new Roper Park siren he sees no other immediate need for outdoor warnings.        
    To sign up for CodeRED emergency alerts visit or call 706-253-8809.
    Learn more about tornado preparedness at

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