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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.