Enloe says Hartshorne storm siren working

KEVIN HARVISON | Staff photoThe inoperable storm siren in Haileyville will be fixed and the siren in Hartshorne has been repaired, officials said.

The storm siren in Hartshorne has been repaired, tested and is now working.

That's according to McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe, who said there are hopes to obtain funding to help install one — and maybe two — storm sirens in Haileyville and that work is underway to have a second storm siren installed in Hartshorne.

The News-Capital spoke with Enloe on Thursday after Hartshorne's storm siren failed to operate when a tornado warning was issued for the Hartshorne-Haileyville area on Tuesday night.

With the storm siren in neighboring Haileyville reported to have been inoperable for years, the only warning sirens heard by the Twin Cities residents prior to the Tuesday night tornado that struck Haileyville, came from the vehicles of police and fire department personnel, who blasted the sirens on their vehicles in an attempt to warn those in the area of the oncoming tornadic storm.

With five injuries now confirmed, 22 homes reported destroyed and others heavily damaged as a result of the Tuesday night storm, Enloe said Wednesday he had contacted a company in Kansas and he would make sure Hartshorne's storm sirens were working before the day's end.

He said Thursday that goal had been accomplished.

"The storm siren in Hartshorne is 100 percent operational," said Enloe, who is also the emergency management director for the city of Hartshorne. 

"It was tested up until 8 p.m.," Enloe said. "We done four tests where they actually sounded it."

So what was the problem when the Hartshorne siren failed to operate Tuesday night?

"One issue we knew about going in was communications for sounding it remotely," Enloe said. He said radio frequencies have been reprogrammed. Now, the Hartshorne storm siren can be remotely activated from the Hartshorne Fire Department, from Hartshorne City Hall and from a hand-held radio utilized by Hartshorne Fire Chief Gerry Barone, he said.

Hartshorne's storm siren can also now be remotely sounded from the Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management, he said.

During the Tuesday night tornadic storm, Barone had climbed a ladder in the rain and amidst heavy lightning to reach the siren, which is attached to a tall pole, in an attempt to sound it manually.

"He tried — not just once, but multiple times," Enloe said.

 Why did the manual attempts not work, since that would not have been a radio frequency issue?

"The batteries were dead," said Enloe. He said Thursday that fresh batteries have now been installed.

Haileyville

Meanwhile, recently-elected Haileyville Mayor David Johnston said Wednesday that he spoke with Enloe shortly after becoming mayor about the need for a working storm siren in Haileyville. The only trouble, Johnston said, was the sirens cost approximately $25,000 apiece.

"We have identified for a storm siren in the city of Haileyville," Enloe said Thursday. If federal aid is approved following an emergency disaster declaration issued by Pittsburg County commissioners on Thursday, Enloe said he wants to apply for grant money to help pay for the cost.

Enloe said that would not pay the entire cost, it would likely be on a cost-share basis with the city, but that would help.

Johnston said he would like to see storm sirens on both the north and south sides of Haileyville. It's a concept with which Enloe agrees. "We need to do whatever it takes," Enloe said.

Johnston remained steadfast Thursday about getting a storm siren — preferably two — for the city of Haileyville.

"You can't put a cost on human life," Johnston said.

Even though Haileyville does not have the $25,000 Johnston said is needed for one storm siren — much less the $50,000 he said would be need for two, so there could be one ob both the south and the north sides of the city — Johnston said he's going to keep trying.

"I'm going to beat every bush I can," Johnston said.

He called an emergency city council meeting on Thursday, when the city of Haileyville issued a storm disaster declaration, which is designed to help the process of obtaining special state or federal funding to help deal with the emergency resulting from the Tuesday night tornado that hit the city.

He and others in Haileyville have been touched by the outpouring of support.

"Tears have welled the last couple of days," Johnston said. "People are reaching into their billfolds and purses. It's awesome." 

Thursday was a day of more cleanups, repairs and trying to move forward, he said. "We're trying to get everything taken care of."

Johnston said there were so many volunteers at one point, they were almost running into each other.

"The volunteers are awesome," he said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com