Weather caused safety concerns

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The first ever tornado warning during a Rattlesnake Rodeo has prompted city leaders to update the city’s emergency plan to include events at Channell-Lee Stadium.

Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar told utilities director Jerome Rogers that he’d like for the plan to be updated so there would be a written plan so volunteers would have guidance in the event of a dangerous weather situation.

Several years ago, the city adopted an emergency plan, but it currently does not include a course of action in case of emergency at the stadium. Edgar said a new plan should be in place to cover voluntary and/or mandatory evacuations.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Covington County around 5:45 p.m. Friday, which included the city of Opp. Soon after, the decision was made to evacuate the stadium.

“We’ve never been in the position to evacuate the stadium,” Edgar said. “I was up at the senior center, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what the best course of action was. I figured that people would be safer in their cars than in the stadium with flying debris.”

Utilities board member Charles Willis agreed a concrete course of action is needed.

“We need a written plan, so everyone knows what to do,” he said. “The evacuation went well, though.”

Edgar said the plan should include someone manning each gate.

“We also needed a way to announce the evacuation over the PA system,” he said.

“Bob (Lawrence) did read the weather announcement over the loud speaker,” board member Oren Stewart said.

“We need something we can do with no hesitation and everyone knows what to do,” Willis said. “The mayor could have been blown away, and wouldn’t have been able to make the decision to evacuate.”

Edgar said this was the first time in the 52-year history a dangerous weather situation like this presented itself at the rodeo. Rodeos have been rained out in the past.