White Cloud losing tornado warning siren

WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WOOD) — Residents of White Cloud will have to rely on TV, radio and social media to get severe weather warnings.

Abby Watkins, the director of Newaygo County Emergency Services, said power to the old siren on top of White Cloud’s former fire station has been cut and there are no plans to replace it.

“We do not know how many residents actually rely on that siren for warning information,” Watkins said.

She said the old siren, which was also used to alert White Cloud’s part-time firefighters to calls, wasn’t in a location that could adequately cover the community.

“It only covers maybe about a half a mile range at best,” she said.

That, along with the estimated $20,000 price tag for a new siren, led to the decision to not replace it.

The decision comes at the same time other counties, like Kent County, have added sirens. Those decisions were made based on population growth and shifts.

“We have a very small population up here and it’s kind of scattered throughout,” Watkins said. “We have different terrain. So the effectiveness of that siren is very limited.”

Additionally, the siren only sounded in case of tornadoes, which Watkins says are rare in Newaygo County. Thunderstorms and straight-line winds are more common.

Watkins said her office will push alternative alert systems like social networking tools Facebook and Nixle, a platform used by over 8000 public safety agencies.

“That allows the county agencies to send out emergency alert notifications directly to your cellphone,” Watkins explained of Nixle.

Newaygo County Emergency Services is also encouraging the use of weather radios for those who don’t have access to computers or smartphones.

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