116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Johnson County adding new storm sirens
Jul. 4, 2011 8:27 pm
It's the season for severe storms, and Johnson County is taking steps to provide better warning for people in rural areas.
The county is installing a storm siren in southwest Johnson County, near Iowa Mennonite School, at the end of July, said Dave Wilson, the county's emergency management coordinator.
It's part of a plan to add one siren a year for five years, he said.
Another one should go up next year by Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca near Coralville Lake (north Johnson County), followed by one near Sutliff Bridge (northeast), and then the unincorporated villages of Cosgrove (west) and Morse (northeast of Iowa City), he said.
“The goal obviously is to really target the areas that have a lot of outdoor, summer-type activity where they might not be aware what's going on,” Wilson said.
A Gazette investigation after a tornado struck Iowa City in April 2006 found that siren coverage was poor in the less-populated parts of Johnson and Linn counties. For example, southwest Johnson County, home to about 3,500 people at the time, had no coverage.
In 2009, sirens were installed near the small village of Frytown in southwest Johnson County and in F.W. Kent Park in the western part of the county.
Adding more has been a priority for county Supervisor Rod Sullivan.
“I think there's this idea that rural translates to no people, and that's not really true,” he said.
He said about 50 people live in Joetown, also known as Amish, near the siren going up this month. Iowa Mennonite School had 125 students last school year, according to Iowa Department of Education data.
Also, many Amish and Mennonite families live in southwest Johnson County, and they do not always have the technology at hand to warn them of an approaching storm, Wilson said.
The county used federal grant money to cover the cost of the 2009 sirens. County funds will be used for the new sirens, which cost about $25,000 each, Wilson said.
The sirens are solar-powered and require little maintenance, Wilson said. Each covers a 2.2-mile radius, he said.
Wilson said he gets a lot of calls from people complaining they can't hear sirens inside their homes, but they are intended to warn people outside of an approaching storm.