Thursday, July 14, 2011

14 JUL 11: C'mon, Feel the Noise

Give the summer storms in our area credit for one thing -- they usually warn you they're coming. The sky darkens. Thunder usually rumbles. If you can't get to your car and roll up the window before the rain starts, you're without excuse.

But this year, the Columbus Emergency Management office apparently has decided the weather needs some help. It happened again Wednesday afternoon, as emergency sirens across the city sounded during a thunderstorm. It's almost as if people in the office placed a bet on whether the siren could drown out the thunder.

As you might guess, the warning sirens made some residents concerned. But it turned out no tornado warning ever was issued for the Columbus area. There was a severe thunderstorm warning in Muscogee County - which usually doesn't qualify for sirens in the U.S. But I guess sirens are more likely when you're in a city with 100 extra police officers.

One man told me when the severe weather siren sounds, "That only means one thing." I replied by noting in Columbus, they can mean many things. Sometimes I think the wide range of sounds is a sneaky effort by the city government to promote diversity.

So why did the siren sound during a severe thunderstorm warning this time? I read one comment online claiming circulation similar to a tornado began developing inside the storm. I'm not sure how you'd conclusively confirm that. Sometimes vultures fly in circles because they've spotted dinner.

But Facebook chief meteorologist Kurt Schmitz suggested there was no reason for Columbus Emergency Management to make noise at all. He wrote it's "bad policy to blow sirens in a common situation...." For one thing, someone might dare to follow a police car all the way to a doughnut shop....

In fact, this makes at least two occasions this year when the "tornado siren" erupted without a tornado warning. In the first case, someone called 911 and reported seeing a funnel cloud near Victory Drive. The National Infantry Museum had better not show the movie "Twister" at its IMAX theatre for a while.

Make no mistake: Wednesday's severe thunderstorm certainly was dangerous. Columbus Airport had a wind gust of 51 miles per hour. And in the words of WTVM's Andrew Wittenberg, a "tree line fell on a power limb." Don't they clear space around transformers to prevent things like that?

But sound the sirens for something less than a tornado threat too often, and Columbus Emergency Management is running the risk of doing the exact opposite of its goal. People won't be alert - they'll become complacent. You can only "cry wolf" so often - something Harold Camping should have learned two months ago.

There was a good side to Wednesday's thunderstorm. It cooled off an afternoon hot and humid enough to prompt "heat advisories" from the National Weather Service. So far, Columbus Emergency Management hasn't developed a special sound for that condition. But if you hear an extra-large egg frying someday....

-> Our other blog is asking a question based on the World Series of Poker Main Event. Read and comment at "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Former Deputy Fire Chief Angelia Curran sought sympathy in federal court Wednesday. But readers keep shooting flaming arrows toward the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department in Smiths Station....

You are so close on those comments about selling fire extinguishers for money. With her Dad and Husband still there, the same stuff will happen, they still will have keys to the Buildings and probably jus do things a little quiter. They still have the radios to listen - There still is a Blue Pickup that might belong to the Fire Department jus about always in their Driveway - I guess it is for a getaway when they hear anything about them on the radio..

Those County Commissioners and Chairman that approved those Board positions all these years are jus as guilty as with other Board members for allowing it in the first place

Now hold on here - the pickup truck is blue, right? Shouldn't a fire department's trucks be red? Even if they're within a short drive of Auburn University?

Angelia Curran pleaded NOT guilty to federal embezzlement charges. Outside court, she told WTVM she's "trying to stay out of jail for her baby." Take that, you scoffers! She's a concerned mother of a three-year-old - so the proper vehicle for her would be a minivan, not a pickup.

It must be noted the federal indictment of Angelia Curran did NOT accuse any other members of her family. And if she really embezzled a lot of money, why did a federal judge give her a court-appointed attorney Wednesday? You'll notice Phenix City firefighters haven't started a special "fill the boot" drive to pay for her lawyer.

Father and Friendship Fire Chief Roy Trobaugh says the whole thing is a misunderstanding, and his daughter didn't break the law intentionally. It may come down to that issue, if this case ever goes to trial. Was Angelia Curran giggling uncontrollably as she entered the bank?

Let's race to the scene of other Wednesday news....

+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer a woman was arrested for walking out of Ruth Ann's Restaurant downtown without paying for breakfast. The woman allegedly ordered a "ham and eggs platter," then was stopped on Veterans Parkway with grits on her shirt. Talk about a clue! Well, unless a Greyhound bus hit some potholes on the way to the Columbus bus station....

+ The Russell County Commission ordered Care Ambulance to vacate its building in Seale, now that the commission has voted to change to a different service. Care Ambulance reportedly has padlocked the building, instead of moving out -- so please plan your heart attacks to occur outside the office door.

+ Auburn University announced all football season tickets are sold out. Last year some were still available in early September. People who jumped on the Cam Newton bandwagon after one game still could be 90-percent all-in.

(Some football fans may not have learned the lesson of Gene Chizik's book -- because now the season tickets are all-out.)

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