published Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Huntland TN installs tornado siren, repairs another

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    A tornado siren mounted on one of the buildings behind the Huntland Police Department was donated to the town by its mayor, Patrick Matthews and his wife, Barbara. Matthews was inspired to make the donation after the April 28 tornadoes that killed two in neighboring Lincoln County.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Future tornado warnings for the residents of the tiny Franklin County town of Huntland will come partially in the form of a siren's wail howling across Southern Tennessee's landscape.

The town's mayor, Patrick Matthews, and his wife, Barbara, this month donated a tornado siren to their town to restore an audible storm alarm for its 855 or so residents.

Huntland is about 12 or 13 miles east of the path an EF3 tornado took April 28 when it claimed two lives in neighboring Lincoln County with 160 mph winds that destroyed an elementary school. On April 27, 2011, a twister produced EF2 damage as it tore from Madison County, Ala., toward Huntland, in some spots reaching EF4-level wind speeds.

Matthews said this week he learned from the city superintendent that there was actually an old siren on top of the old fire department building, but it had not been in working order for about 25 years. The old siren was used to alert firefighters to the presence of a fire in the response area.

"I asked our city workers to take the old siren down that does not work and bring it to me," he said.

The mayor showed the old siren to a couple of certified electricians and "it only took them a couple of hours and they had it repaired and working like new," he said.

The mayor and his wife spent about $700 on the new siren, but the old one was fixed for free.

"Now we have two tornado sirens and we are placing them at strategic locations at opposite ends of our town so that everyone in our town and our surrounding community will be alerted to imminent dangerous weather," he said.

The new siren was installed on top of a building behind the Huntland Police Department on Cumberland Boulevard. A location for the old, repaired siren is being determined, officials said.

Matthews said his main goal was to offer a life-saving storm warning alarm for residents and the town's K-12 public school on the south end where more than 600 students attend.

He said that, in his 35 years living in Huntland, the town has had two "direct hits," in 1996 and 2012.

Franklin County Emergency Management Agency director Eric Trussell said he hoped the devices fulfilled expectations for town leaders and residents. County officials have not yet seen the sirens or plans for their use, he said.

"I hope it's a benefit for the town of Huntland," Trussell said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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