By Adam Smith
The Tennessee Valley Authority announced this week it will soon begin replacing outdated warning sirens across the Tennessee Valley.
TVA spokesman Ray Golden said the $7 million project will start in Limestone County with the replacement of 100 sirens and poles. The project will start after the first of the new year, he said, and should wrap up ahead of the spring tornado season.
“The sirens are AC powered and replacements will be more state-of-the-art and be capable of both AC and DC power,” he said.
The utility will also replace 99 sirens near the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn., and 108 sirens at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Chattanooga, Tenn.
Golden said the April 27 tornadoes was not the sole impetus for the siren upgrades. He said TVA had been working with emergency management officials in Alabama and Tennessee for three years on upgrading the outdated sirens.
“The emergency plan has been around for 30-plus years and is continuously undergoing evaluation,” he said.
A contingency portion of the TVA’s emergency plan specifies that if sirens become inoperable, emergency officials at the county level drive affected routes and broadcast messages to residents.
About half of the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency’s 24 sirens sustained damage from repeated use in the April 27 tornadoes, but sirens installed by the county EMA have backup battery packs. After a power outage following a tornado that struck at about 11:30 a.m., the remaining EMA sirens could only function for about four hours on batteries.
After power went out, Limestone County Sheriff’s deputies rode areas of East Limestone in patrol cars, going door to door to warn people the mile-wide EF5 was approaching. Several residents on Menefee Road said the warnings saved their lives.