Thursday, June 5, 2008

In Case of Emergency...

Natalie Jovonovich

With severe weather hitting the Athens area the past few days, many local residents were left wondering how they would know if the area were under any sort of warning. At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Paul Wiehl said Ohio University did approach the city in January about potentially putting a siren at the corner of Court and Union Streets. "The difficulty is the older generation would recognize it as an air raid so to speak, and the younger ones would say what's that noise?" Wiehl said university officials also discussed a speaker system, so that instead of a generic siren, the college community could be told what is actually happening. City officials decided against it because it was too expensive - $200,000, to be exact. Athens County Emergency Management Director Fred Davis says sirens for the county would be cost-prohibitive because there has never been a National Weather Service verified tornado touchdown.

Mayor Paul Wiehl describes the process the university is using to test potential sirens for the campus.

How Do You Know?

So how do you know when weather is severe enough for a warning? Davis says there are many options for residents to find that information out:
- regional television stations
- Emergency Alert Systems on radio stations like WOUB and WXTQ
- special weather alert radios
WOUB News Director Tim Sharp says the decision to break into regular programming on Tuesday night is something new the station is trying if the weather is severe. "Not only is it automatically distributed, it automatically overrides all other programming." Sharp says he called a weather student to do the cut-ins on television and FM radio after seeing several other stations doing the same thing. Ohio University student Pat Henderson said he would not have known about the severity of the weather if it weren't for the Residence Life staff: "All of the dorms made us go down to the first floor and basements and we all had to huddle together and it was actually really scary because I've never really experienced something like that before." Both Sharp and Davis say they do NOT use their websites to let the public know about bad weather. Sharp says WOUB does need to start doing that, but it's hard to move in a timely fashion because of the way they are structured. Davis says the EMA site does not normally carry updates because the department lacks the manpower.

Where to Watch for Flooding

Davis has been the emergency management director for a year and a half and says he hasn't had to endure a full-fledged flood yet. But, he says he knows of a few areas that are the most prone to flooding in the area.
- Sunday and Monday Creek from Glouster to Chauncey
- Federal Creek from Stewart to Guysville

Emergency Management Director Fred Davis talks about what the county would do if there were a severe weather disaster.

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