Chatham County to get weather siren upgrade - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Chatham County to upgrade weather siren

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From Tybee Island to Port Wentworth, almost everyone in Chatham County got the same early morning wake up call Tuesday.

In each case, every siren is activated upon a warning, whether a community is in the path of a potential tornado inside Chatham County or not.

In March, a $37,000 Federal grant will help pay for an upgrade, allowing emergency management officials to only activate the sirens where a threat is imminent, rather than all of them at once.

On Tuesday, all of Chatham County was under a tornado warning, and at 6 a.m., the sirens blared to alert residents. Chatham Emergency Management Agency Director Clayton Scott tells WTOC all 60 sirens were tested the first Wednesday of this month, like every month, and were in good working condition. However, sirens on Hutchinson Island and The Landings did not go off because the utility poles they were hooked up to had been knocked over and were out of service.

The rest of the sirens across the county went off as the tornado warning was ordered, whether residents liked it or not.

"Who wants to get woke up at 6 a.m. with sirens going off," Scott told WTOC Tuesday morning.

While most other smaller counties in southeast Georgia and South Carolina use the NOAA weather radios and other notification systems, which Chatham County also uses, Chatham is the only county in the Coastal Empire with an extensive weather siren network, which after close to a decade of development has now cost close to $750,000, Scott estimates, combined from beginning to now.

With the upgrade, the county will only have to match their work in installing the devices to the sirens, which will be paid for by the $37,000 grant.  Scott says the option of selective siren sounding limits public panic, improves quality of life, and maximizes effectiveness of the purpose of the siren system.

"We had a case, it was 5, 6, 7 years ago, where it was beautiful on Tybee Island, where by the way they have four weather sirens of their own. Simultaneously, in Pooler, the weather was downright horrible and that is a where the pentagram and outline of the tornado warning actual was but we had to sound all of the alarms. With this  upgrade, we can select those sirens and we can sound just those sirens. We can sound one or any groups of sirens," Scott said.

Chatham County's siren upgrade could be finished and ready by End of April. 

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