Five sirens are not enough to adequately warn residents in Oregon of oncoming tornados, according to City Administrator Mike Beazley at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday. He said the city wants to install four more to fill in the gaps.
Beazley discussed the matter with the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency after a resident from Starr Avenue told council at a meeting on Nov. 25 that he did not hear tornado sirens go on when a tornado tore through the city on Nov. 17, causing property damage in some parts of the city.
The EMA, however, determined there was nothing wrong with the sirens.
“We followed up with the emergency management folks, and they’ve been very responsive to some of the questions raised by residents about tornado sirens,” said Beazley. “It’s their conclusion that our sirens all worked, as far as we can tell.”
The sirens are activated to alert people of a tornado when the National Weather Service issues a warning.
Beazley said the city will apply for a grant that would fund part of the installation of four more tornado sirens to fill in gaps in coverage.
“When you do look at Oregon, there are probably more gaps because of our 28 square miles of land, more than there are in almost any other community in the region. We have applied for a 50-50 grant for some additional locations for tornado sirens.”
A local match of $11,500 for each of the sirens, for a total of $46,000, would be required as part of the grant, said Beazley, which would have to be approved by council.
Police Chief Mike Navarre said he was contacted by Matt Heyrman, director of the Lucas County EMA, in July to ask if the city wanted to participate in a grant application he was going to submit to the state on behalf of Lucas County.
Heyrman had pointed out that Oregon was one of the worst cities in Lucas County for coverage of tornado sirens, noted Navarre.
“We found that out on Nov. 17,” said Navarre. “We had many citizens who did not hear sirens, and we had some that did. There is a lack of coverage. I met with [Fire] Chief Ellis, we got together with our staff, and we came up with what we felt were the best four locations in order of priority. Hopefully, we’ll get all four that will fill in those gaps very nicely and not have a repeat of the problem we had a few weeks back.”
Councilman James Seaman said he did not hear a siren at his home in the Stevens Meadows area when the tornado hit just before 6 p.m. on Nov. 17.
Navarre said the new sirens will be stronger than the current ones.
“Of the five we have in Oregon, only three have a half mile radius,” said Navarre. “The newer sirens will have a one mile radius.”
After the meeting, Navarre said the four locations for the new tornado sirens are Starr and Coy, Stadium and Eagles Landing, Pickle Road west of Wynn Road, and Parkway and Blue Heron.
“That will take care of most of the residential areas,” said Navarre. You try to do the best you can with the resources you have.”
The tornado was one of three that struck the area. The first twister started in Perrysburg at about 5:35 p.m., cut a 12 mile path into Oregon, where it ended at about 5:55 p.m. The width of the EF2 tornado was 150-200 yards and had an estimated maximum wind of between 120-125 mph.
There were no reports of injuries, but some trees were uprooted and several homes were damaged in the aftermath of the storm.