Sunday, April 26, 2015

"New siren system posing challenges as storm season nears"

SOUTHSTAR GLEN - City officials are fighting many challenges with a state-of-the-art cloud based siren system purchased late last year.  The system designed to be activated via a city network, stored within a cloud system, will be able to sync with NOAA offices within the state while offering on-demand status reports to the public safety department has created many challenges for the city since it's $3 Million purchase last August.  The system would put the city on the front steps of a technology many large metropolis's have yet to realize and give the city a much more controlled way to manage the city's 50 sirens, including those found in rural township areas.

The first of two large challenges came as the city used a local new years event as a initial test of the system after it's installation during the month of November 2014; in which officials soon discovered that many of the more rural and legacy sirens within the city were not compatible with the new system.  

The city of Southstar Glen safety department manager of the historic district commented that the city had spent well over $5 Million in siren upgrades within the last 5 years changing many of the old cold war era civil defense systems to newer sirens purchased from the Federal Signal company.   These started replacing many of the old or Legacy sirens through-out the city leaving only rural areas and some outer edge communities with the original sirens installed in the early 70's. "We had originally planned a full replacement but later decided to leave the Thunderbolt sirens in place where possible based on the condition of the sirens and population they protect." said Mr. Elroy of the Public Safety Department concerning what was replaced.

"These civil defense sirens have however now risen a safety hazard as the new cloud system will not support them and without support; these units will not activate during a event." Elroy also commented.   The city has invested additional funds to purchase the remaining needed sirens or to eliminate sirens where possible based on any overlapping areas.  With a active storm season ahead.. the city has been at a sprint to install and retest these sirens by June and July's season. The addition of many large tornado events in the US has also sparked the rush to test the sirens and many have already been installed.

The second challenge however will slow the process down for testing as one known resident of the city has fought the removal of a siren in her neighborhood citing the siren hasn't surpassed it's use and is safer than the newer siren, which some question might have a lower tone than the older sirens designed to alert of nuclear attack. One resident stated " It's a valid argument for her area and she has been well known by many of the city officials for years".

The siren is less than a mile from resident Kawaii Raccoon's home which is part of the old In-Town route once used to enter the city prior to the advent of the main highway passing miles away.  The siren sits at the intersection of the two roads and officials have been meeting with Miss Raccoon for a little over 2 weeks.  This is the second fight she has fought for her neighborhood that is now mostly empty fields.  The old bridge on the same road was fought for after the 2007 inspection of all area bridges and was deemed ready for demolition.  Miss Raccoon, who has ties through her brother who suffered an accident on the bridge resulting in his death. Until the 2007 inspections, the day after his accident was the last time it had been inspected and repaired.

After the 2 year fight, Miss Raccoon was given ownership of the bridge through her purchase of it from the state and was allowed access to city services for the repair and upkeep of the bridge. Area residents who know her are calling it the " fight for the siren" and while city officials have not yet commented on the option for her to purchase the siren as she did the bridge; it has commented that if a agreement is not reached within the start of May, they will be installing a new siren next to the older one with it's own pole and electric systems.  An added cost to the project of $275,000 which they may charge back to Miss Raccoon or split out to tax payer money.

Tests of the full siren system initially set for July 3rd have been moved earlier to the start of June as officials have stated they are not taking events like Fairdale, IL and Sand Springs, OK lightly. When complete and fully operational, the system will be managed by Southstar County Sheriffs Offices and give access to all deputy's the ability to activate the sirens thru the cloud if they see a tornado prior to warnings being issued.  The siren's will also be controlled by zones allowing more accurate warnings targeting smaller spaces a tornado or weather event occurs; reducing the "false alarm syndrome" deputy F. Greens says many residents have developed over the years with the inclusion of their use for the city's largest festival in July called " GlenFest".  

SOUTHSTAR TIMES - April 26th, 2015    .

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tornado Season has begun.

On Thursday ( April 9th, 2015) a strong line of storms ripped thru the Midwest bringing in a very powerful entrance to the storm season.  Of the many communities hit with a complete life changing moment was that of folks living in Rochelle, IL.

Located a few miles away, Davis Junction was also rumored to have taken a hit.  Initially I had confused towns which later I found today by driving to the town and finding I was thinking of " Davis, IL".  I was able to jog over from Davis into the Rochelle area and while fact remains I have in fact been to Rochelle; I sadly never really took much of a look at it.

My initial thinking was also Rochelle was a large city... turns out it was a small little village like town made of a few businesses and homes.  None the less; the town size does not lessen the inpact of the tornado that went thru on Thursday and leveled 90% of the town. As the snippet above shows.. the storm took 2 lives and was rated as a EF4... much like using a leaf blower to dust off an end table.

Below are some photos from my trip to Rochelle, IL. You might ask why I would travel over 2 hours to a town that has been leveled.  The answer is possibly one most don't think about or would laugh at; but honestly... because I wanted to see this town.  There is a very real reality check seeing the true power of nature and that is true be it watching a tornado in person from a safe distance, seeing it's aftermath, or even on a less destructive form as watching rain fill a river.  We are simply a part of the landscape nature paints in and at times... Nature changed her mind on how something looks...  or wishes to create a change.  We are everyday expanding our presence into nature and with that comes a very real cost of creating our world in the path of Nature's whims and decided changes.

I also feel that as we grow and "progress" in society.. we are becoming further in tune with the idea of ownership and material need.  We are always getting and some are not finding appreciation of the things we get or just don't plan on ever losing things and so we take it for granted.  I'm just as guilty...

These events take from people; usually those who are very much at the edge of society as they work to the bone for what they have and even then... get used to having basics like a home and seeing the environment on a daily look as the same every day.  Victims of a tornado have a 2-10 minute rush of panic and fear... in the end... they walk out to find the very comfort they subconsciously expect and take for granted gone... They find they can see at times past what should be blocks of homes... basically looking out on a flat land of rubble.

That feeling and realization is chilling to me... I cannot ever imagine having that moment in my life and pray it never happens.  However I find that very feeling could also be a valuable snap to reality of life... and visiting such a place where people are confronted with these feelings and events... is much like a second-hand lesson.  If you take a true day to walk and witness the people effected and feel the sadness and shock.. see the kind of damage created by what is literally just a grinding wheel of wind.

When you stand in a war-zone of nature and human life...  you are easily reset in your mind and soul of just how quickly simple things like home and clothes and a surrounded town can be ripped away.  If you cannot feel that or feel no sadness.. your soul has long since darkened and you are most likely in  need of serious guidance.

Without to much more talk and lip flapping; the images I took in Rochelle, IL.