Weather radios an invaluable asset

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

As the rough weather rolled through the County early Tuesday morning, I, like so many others awoke to the sound of wailing sirens, gusty winds and heavy rains.

Normally, I would have rolled over and just went back to sleep. I have a strong penchant for sleeping through bad weather … it's one of my bad habits.

But this time, I was actually already awake. I had woke up about two minutes before the weather siren outside my house went off. Not because of the weather itself (that rarely wakes me up), but because I have a NOAA Weather Radio in my house. That little radio is a direct line to the National Weather Service and sounds anytime a watch or warning is issued for any part of south Alabama -- from Montgomery County to Mobile County.

Although the severe weather was just over three miles from my house in Heath, I had an extra advance warning that many people in Covington County don't have. It's all because I chose to purchase the weather radio and take a little more interest in my own personal safety and my families.

Although Covington County has an exceptional early warning system in place -- one that covers almost the entire county -- there are still places where a siren might not be heard from inside a building. When I bought my house, I took that into consideration and made the decision to purchase my own weather alarm.

It's a choice I haven't regretted -- most of the time.

You see, the weather radios are wonderful tools. They give you weather reports for your immediate area (our nearest repeater for weather radios is actually in Dozier), boat and beach forecasts and an extended weather forecast. But … anytime any watch or warning is issued for any county other than Covington, the alarm sounds. That means I get to hear what's happening in Clarke County for example.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. It gives a little more of an advanced warning of what could be headed my way. However, when the alarm sounds for every little watch in a county 100 miles away, that can get old.

But, by far, the positives outweigh the negatives. A weather radio can save lives. I know this for a fact. When I was living in Birmingham and the tornado struck Tuscaloosa County right before Christmas in 2000, there was one story in particular that still remains in my head. A young mother living in a mobile home had a weather radio in her living room. Her radio alarm sounded and she heard the report that a tornado was entering the county -- very near to where she lived. She had at least a two-minute head start before the local news and weather sirens sounded.

She was able to get her children and go to the safety of a storm shelter. When the storm had passed, all that remained of her mobile home was the front porch that had been added on. It was found a mile away, in the top of a tree. She and her children had lived. Her next door neighbors didn't.