Franklin County Times
BELGREEN – Predicting dangerous weather isn't an exact science, but the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency recently added equipment that will make it a little easier.
Last Tuesday the EMA installed a weather camera and station atop the 100-foot radio tower behind its main office on Highway 187 that was funded by grant money. The computer-controlled camera and weather station measures and stores information such as wind speed, barometric pressure, temperature and humidity, and it can track the weather for a 15-20 mile radius.
"We used money from a Homeland Security grant, so it didn't cost the county anything," said Franklin County EMA Deputy Director Roy Gober, who will officially become director on Oct. 1 after a unanimous vote by the Franklin County Commission. "Most tornadoes come from the southwest, and this camera allows us to pan around – we can pan up and down and zoom in and out. We can use pre-sets with saved coordinates that allow us to immediately look at a location."
Gober said the EMA uses a proactive approach for emergencies.
"The EMA's primary purpose is emergency planning – if you don't have a plan, you're going to fail," Gober said. "We handle anything from tornadoes to a possible flu pandemic with the help of other organizations, such as the National Weather Service in Huntsville and the county health department."
Tornados are the most common weather problem that the EMA handles locally, although it's been more than 30 years since a tornado caused major damage in Franklin County.
"We've had several touch downs over the years, but the last major tornado was in 1971," Gober said.
"It caused major damage, and the entire area was inundated with tornados. That was when there were 100-something tornados that came through in north Alabama and Tennessee."
The EMA has ordered two additional weather sirens for the county and six more shelters to be placed in Phil Campbell, Hodges, Red Bay and Russellville.
"We have a direct link to the National Weather Service in Huntsville, and we can always be paged by the sheriff's department," said Gober, who can be notified at all times by radio, phone or pager. Gober said the NWS is the only agency that can issue official weather warnings.
"The National Weather Service is the only (agency) that can put an area under a tornado watch or warning," Gober said.
"They warn us, and then we'll set those sirens off and notify the EMS, fire departments and police departments – you don't want to be out in a patrol car with a tornado headed towards you."