Commission discusses severe storm

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In light of Thursday’s tornado, Pike County Emergency Management Director Jeanna Barnes explained to Pike County Commissioners the details of Thursday’s storm, which led to a dramatic, extreme weather situation that escalated in a matter of minutes.

Barnes explained through a power point presentation at approximately 9:28 p.m., a significant weather advisory was issued for Pike County and that a significant weather advisory was considered less than a severe thunderstorm warning, which was not issued for Pike County at any point of time during Thursday’s storm.

“It’s important to note that a significant weather advisory is below a significant thunderstorm,” Barnes said. “I don’t usually bother you guys with these … It’s below a severe thunderstorm, but enough for us to be watching it. It was supposed to expire at 10:30 p.m. Then we were issued another significant weather advisory, and it was basically from that same storm.”

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Other issues were also explained during Barnes’ presentation, such as the time stamps for the warnings issued and the actual time that the tornado touched down. The significant weather advisories were issued at approximately 10:32 p.m., and while the tornado has been confirmed to have touched down at 10:35 p.m., a warning was not issued until 10:38 p.m., minutes after it touched.

“A tornado warning was issued at 10:39 p.m., which you did not get a text from me about,” Barnes told commissioners Monday. “That’s because at the same time, I was receiving phone calls from the Troy Police Department that a tornado had touched down, and there were confirmed injuries inside of Walmart. That’s why I didn’t get the message out that I usually do.”

During her presentation, Barnes included photos of the radar images. Commissioners asked questions concerning the sounding of sirens in different areas of the county. Barnes said that sirens were not the most reliable form of warning with a storm as loud as it was Thursday.

“Within six minutes is the difference between these two images,” Barnes said. “This is one of the reasons why sirens were not alerted beforehand and why the warning was not issued beforehand. It was not expected. We were not even forecasted to get severe weather with this storm.”

The commission also approved the transfer of $8,000 from the road and bridges fund to repair a timber bridge on County Road 1124. County Engineer Russell Oliver explained that there was a two-span timber bridge that had recently suffered damage effectively closing the road to through traffic.

“Apparently there have been some heavy loads that have been coming across this bridge,” Oliver said. “It’s an all-timber bridge, and we have a pile that’s been crushed and a pile cap that has been broken. We’ve had to close the road.”

Since the item was not initially put on the agenda, commissioners debated the legality and legitimacy of approving the request for funds on such short notice; however, County Attorney Allen Jones explained that since the situation was an emergency, commissioners could vote to suspend the rules and then subsequently vote to approve the request.

The commission approved the request unanimously.

Commissioners also approved a resolution stating the Alabama State Department of Revenue will be the collecting agent for the county’s Lodging Tax.

In other items of business, the commission approved the minutes from its most recent meeting, approved the claims, approved a Family Medical Leave request for an employee in the Probate Office, the change in employment for a Road Department employee who will be retiring and approved the closing of the Drug Task Force unit and the transfer of the remaining funds to the District Attorneys office.

The commission also forwarded the awarding of the security bids for the Pike County Courthouse to the next meeting to remain for any lingering bids to come in before they close this Friday, forwarded the revision of the Subdivision Regulations to the and the EMA report beyond details concerning Thursday’s storm.