Tupelo likely to expand its tornado siren coverage

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City leaders today likely will approve a long-overdue project to extend tornado-siren coverage to areas annexed into Tupelo 20 years ago.
The areas are located in the far northwest and southwest corners of the city: near The Mall at Barnes Crossing and Old Town Circle; in Belden; by Ballard Park; and in the Southern Heights and Haven Acres neighborhoods.
Proposed are eight new emergency sirens costing $101,352. An additional $63,638 will be needed to upgrade the city’s seven existing sirens and tie all of them into a master control system.
That’s less than the $210,349 estimate the municipality got three years ago for the same project. It’s also less than the $265,000 that was budgeted for the project today.
“This was one of only two places in the budget I recommended an increase,” said Major Jack Reed Jr. at a City Council agenda-review session Monday. “As you know, we’re in tornado alley. You all should be proud of this.”
The council is expected to vote on the matter at its regular meeting today. If approved, Tupelo will enter into a contract with Illinois-based Federal Signal Corp. to provide the equipment.
Federal Signal Corp. offered the better deal compared to one other bidder during a December bid opening.
The Tupelo Water & Light Department will install the sirens within the next six weeks, said TW&L Manager Johnny Timmons.
The sirens are maintained by the city but activated by Lee County E-911 whenever the National Weather Services issues a tornado warning for the area.
“We’ll also set them off if we have a professional storm spotter or public safety person out in the field who has actually seen a funnel cloud and reports it,” said Paul Harkins, director of Lee County E-911, whose office is based in Saltillo.
Most of the region’s twisters occur between March and May. It was in April of 1936 that the nation’s fourth-deadliest hit Tupelo, killing more than 230 people. Another brief tornado season occurs in the fall.
Although people in outlying areas might hear the faint scream from one of the inner-city sirens, the best hearing occurs within a one-mile radius of the devices.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.