Lamar County gets a new weather system


LAMAR COUNTY, Ala. (WCBI) – Our weather team spends a lot of time talking with viewers, talking with students and promoting severe weather education.

It’s important to be weather aware because as so many local people have found out first hand this spring, strong winds and rain are dangerous.

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Lamar County has just installed a new weather system to help residents stay ready.

The county has been using this system for a month now.

And although they haven’t needed the warning, it’s ready anytime.

For 25 years, tornado sirens have warned people who live in Lamar County about dangerous storms.

Now, the county has a new weather system to notify residents if there is a severe thunderstorm on the way – or a tornado warning.

EMA Director Luther Otts said there are two ways to tell them apart.

“It’s a whoop for a severe thunderstorm, it’ll be a loud noise, a pause, then another loud noise. And for a tornado warning it’s a continuous noise called a wail that sounds all the time when they go off,” said Otts.

The weather-alert system was funded by the Homeland Security Grant Program, costing $49,000.

And it comes with a lot of bells and whistles.

It’s automatic. The new system is linked to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, so Otts no longer has to be there to sound the alarms manually when there’s a weather threat.

“As soon as National Weather Service hits their warning up there, it goes straight through this system to our sirens,” said Otts.

Alerting community members up to five minutes faster.

“Five minutes is enough time. If you don’t have your own personal shelter, it gives you enough time to think about getting to a shelter that’s within five minutes before anything happens,” said Otts.

Otts is hopeful that this new system will help the community get to safety quicker.

“We were good at warning before, but this will make us better at giving people more time to get to that safe place,” said Otts.

Otts says he plans to test the sirens every first Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m.