BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Independence County residents are concerned about the lack of a siren warning system after the EF1 tornado in Batesville Friday.
Independence County Judge Robert Griffin said county residents did not hear a siren during the tornado because the county discontinued the siren system in 2007 and switched to a call system as a cost-saving measure. "Why they went to it at that time was the cost of repairing the sirens was not favorable compared to going to a call alert," he said.
Judge Griffin said the decision to discontinue the service was made before he was in office. At the Tuesday night quorum court meeting, the efficiency of the call alert system and reimplementing the siren system will be discussed.
"The sirens that were originally put in were a FEMA grant related to another event some time ago. In that regard, we are looking to FEMA at this point since the state's under an emergency declaration. We're going to see if the grant funding is available to re-energize the siren issue."
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The tornado was 75 yards wide and traveled on the ground for about three miles.
Independence County was under a severe thunderstorm warning Friday, but Region 8 News received many questions Saturday about why the county did not activate tornado sirens.
Glen Willis, the Independence County OEM Coordinator, said they did not have time. The tornado touched down that fast.
The National Weather Service in Little Rock agreed.
"Things happened very quickly," science and operations officer Chris Buonao said. "There was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect in that area during that time, but the circulation developed so quickly that it was between our radar scan so nothing was indicated by radar."
"There were quite a bit of severe reports yesterday," Buonao said.
Buonao said this is why it is so important to take the NWS seriously when it issues a severe thunder storm warning.
"There was a significant severe weather threat there so a warning was issued and we definitely recommend to take cover when a warning is issued," Buonao said.
"We were expecting some very strong winds associated with that system," Buonao said. "We definitely recommend when the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning that there is potential danger for life and property so take appropriate action when that warning is issued."
Buonao said the NWS predicts several thunderstorms, starting in eastern Oklahoma, merged with high winds so quickly that the brief tornado formed in Batesville.
Willis said homeowners and business have cleaned up most of the damage.