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Letter to the Editor: Sirens' timing is big consideration

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

To the editor:

The biggest job in handling city storm-warning sirens is deciding when to push the button. If you push it too soon, people will tend to ignore it. If you don't push it when you should have, people will have the head of the officials in charge.

I heard the Southeast Missouri State University storm warning sirens at my home in northern Cape Girardeau recently and appreciate their warning ability. The university may be an excellent choice as designated button-pusher during threatening storms.

I sat through Cape city council discussions in 1977-78 (before a system was installed in 1980) of whether sirens are a good idea. A key question was who will make the decision to punch the button.

Even a few weeks ago, people were huddled in basements and stairwells of more than one public building while the "strong rotation aloft" went from Delta to Burfordville and finally was reported at Gordonville, headed for Jackson. A bad storm at Chaffee, for instance, will tend to be deflected or dissipated by the hills, before it reaches Cape.

The Cape Girardeau County Emergency Operation Center has county rural volunteer firemen doubling as weather spotters with decades of experience. They give almost a play by play of the storms moving through the county.

I like the idea of sirens warning people outdoors. I also don't want the job of deciding when to push the button.

FRED KELLER

Cape Girardeau