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Old 12-24-2007, 03:52 PM
JohnM JohnM is offline
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Default Re: Orlando Sentinel - Weather-service error reduced storm warnings

OrlandoSentinel.com
Lake County ready for severe storms, emergency officials say
Emergency managers are urging Lake residents to purchase and program weather radios.
Katie Fretland

Sentinel Staff Writer

December 24, 2007

LEESBURG

Last year on Christmas Day, a tornado ripped through north Lake County, tearing the tops off of mobile homes and hacking trees in half.

No one was hurt, but the storm foreshadowed deadly twisters that would come a little more than a month later. Then in September, a historic neighborhood in Eustis was ravaged by another tornado. No one was killed in that concentrated but powerful storm.

Few can question whether Lake County had enough experience in dealing with severe weather during the past year. During the Christmas Day storm alone, about 40 homes and 15 businesses were damaged. The storm also hit Volusia County, where more homes were destroyed.

After a year like this one, emergency-management officials say, Lake is prepared for the next severe storm, and they encouraged residents to buy and properly program weather radios.

"Lake County is very well saturated [for weather-radio coverage]," said Tommy Carpenter, the county's emergency-management-operations manager.

Carpenter's assurances came after problems with weather radios around the county made news twice in 2007. As recently as the morning of Dec. 16, residents experienced problems with their weather radios as fast-moving storms rolled through the area. Residents had similar troubles with the radios during the deadly February storms.

Weather radios in The Villages retirement community failed to sound during the early morning of Feb. 2, when tornadoes tore through the county and ultimately killed 21 people. In July, county officials unveiled a new tower in Sumterville to cover gaps in transmission coverage.

Early on Dec. 16, weather radios again failed to alert some residents of a tornado warning when a storm passed by. The storm caused no reported injuries and little damage.

This time, the National Weather Service said the problem with the radios was human error during testing of the Orlando transmitter. An employee turned down the power and forgot to turn it back up. Dennis Decker, a NWS warning-coordinator meteorologist, said the tower is now functioning correctly.

Three towers serve Lake, and emergency-management officials say residents should tune their radios to the strongest signals they receive at home. The Orlando transmitter covers Eustis, Mount Dora and Tavares. In South Lake, the best signal will come from Orlando or Sumterville. The Daytona Beach and Orlando transmitters cover the Umatilla and Altoona areas. In Leesburg, Lady Lake and the Villages, the Sumterville tower is probably best.

These are the frequencies for the respective towers: Orlando -- 162.475; Daytona Beach -- 162.400; and Sumterville -- 162.500.

Radios are available for purchase online and at local stores.

Residents who are having trouble programming their radios can call the Lake County Emergency Management Division or bring the radio to the division's office in Tavares. Residents who cannot bring their radios in can request an emergency manager to come to their home.

For more information on your weather radio, call the Lake County Emergency Management Division at 352-343-9420 or visit lakecountyfl.gov/ departments/public_safety/ emergency_management

"With hurricanes, you get notice. They let you know ahead that they're coming," Carpenter said. "With tornadoes, they don't. We need to make sure we are prepared with NOAA weather radios and a plan as individuals and families."

Katie Fretland can be reached at kfretland@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5934.


 
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