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Frio County Commissioner Raul Carrizales is urging the county to develop a plan focused on building an early warning system that will alert residents in advance of extreme weather conditions.
The Precinct 3 commissioner expressed concerns over the current emergency warning system after residents in Moore were notified ten minutes after a tornado had touched ground.
“Last week, a big storm came through and a tornado was seen actually touching down near the 108 mile marker,” Comm. Carrizales said about a string of storms that came through the county in late August. “It came through, lifted off the highway and caused some damage. The fire department was called out.”
Carrizales noted that Pearsall City Manager Fred Reyes had confirmed that one siren in Pearsall had been repaired. The commissioner requested an update from Frio County 911 Emergency Coordinator Ray Kallio regarding early-warning systems in Dilley and in unincorporated areas of Frio County.
“We did have repairs made to the siren,” Reyes said. “They were made last week; we got the siren going and had a test late Thursday or Friday. We actually have two sirens. One is the current one and the other is at the Colorado Plant.”
The city manager said electrical work was performed on the siren in 2000 but the device has not worked in several years.
Reyes asked that the city and county emergency dispatch collaborate on sending out emergency weather warnings.
“As far as the notification,” the city manager said. “I am assuming you all get the majority of calls. There is a button on my desktop that controls the sirens that I am willing to share with you all. The other thing is, I do not know where, I am still trying to still figure out an answer on the warning system. Initially I thought it was the National Weather Service [who sent out the warnings]. I did not get notifications on the bad weather last week.”
Reyes said he believes the preferable thing is to have advance notice when bad weather is predicted in the county.
“I do not know what that solution is right now,” Reyes said. “I do not know if that is the national weather service or the emergency coordinator who notifies and gets the word out to our citizens.”
According to Kallio, the National Weather Service is generally who pushes all early emergency weather warnings out. If residents have signed up for the county’s emergency notifications through i-INFO, then alerts will be pushed out through that.
The city of Pearsall uses a web-based site, Everbridge, for residents to receive notifications. The mass notification site requires residents to register their phone numbers in order to receive notifications.
“The national weather system pushes [alerts] out, but those still have be to sent out from someone here locally,” Reyes said. “My assumption was they were going to automatically be pushed out, but they are not.”
Kallio said the difference between Pearsall and Dilley sirens were that Pearsall uses a website while the city of Dilley uses a manual button on a console at the police station.
Reyes said certain software programs could be the answer to the mass notification and urged commissioners to focus on residents with telephone landlines.
“Remember when the yellow and white pages came out,” the city manager said. “It had everyone’s phone number. What I am saying is that those landlines, if that information can be pushed into those systems, I know we can do this because I worked with software system, we can push them through landlines and those phones will ring. Those landlines are key because a lot of elderly folk don’t know that there is even bad weather.”
Derby, Bigfoot and Moore do not have warning systems; there was a siren in Moore at the fire department but it has not worked in years, according to Kallio.
“The north Pearsall area, there is not a siren there,” Kallio said. “Hopefully they can hear the siren from the city, but that is pushing it because of the wind.”
Carrizales asked that a meeting be held with the county judge, Kallio, Reyes and others to develop a plan that best suits the county and its residents for emergency notifications.