Columbiana to revise tornado siren policy

By NICOLE LOGGINS / Staff Writer

Columbiana – Columbiana Police Chief Lamar Vick and Fire Chief Johnny Howard gave a presentation at the Jan. 3 Columbiana City Council meeting that recounted a controversial decision by the city not to sound the tornado sirens during a severe weather incident Dec. 22, and explained the city’s current siren policy.

Previously, National Weather Service officials said that an EF0 tornado touched down in Columbiana Dec. 22, damaging two homes and uprooting at least 50 trees.

However, Howard said there is evidence the damage in Columbiana Dec. 22 was not caused by a tornado, but by straight-line winds with no rotation in one specific place.

According to Howard, city officials received three emergency calls related to storm damage.  Howard said there were around 15-20 trees down on Highland Drive and Main Street.

“All those trees were laying southeast to northwest, which is evidence that they were downed by stream lined winds with no rotation,” Howard said.

“I want you to understand because you have concerns. But we did everything correctly across the board,” Howard said.

Howard also went on to say he thinks that an automated system would  be positive for the community.

“I think it’s time to change, update our policy,” he said.

Councilman Stancil Handley said he agreed with Howard that the policy should be updated. “We are all in agreement that the policy we have is outdated,” Handley said.

Concerned citizen Susan Conn said she felt the policy was “misguided” during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“We’ve become complacent,” she said. “it’s a misguided policy, updating it benefits everybody.”

Mayor Allan Lowe said the city provides shelters for those in need during severe weather.

“We have storm shelters and whenever we have a tornado watch those are open, before and after the event,” Lowe said.

Lowe also said he felt an updated automated system would take out some of the guesswork required with the current manual system.

Lowe said the city will hold a public safety meeting Jan. 17 to discuss ways to revise the current policy.