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Renewed call for more warning sirens in Jefferson County

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A hole is all that remains after a large tree was ripped from the front yard of Katie Wommack's house after a powerful tornado moved through the area near Silex, Mo. in Lincoln County. (UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kwmu/local-kwmu-503290.mp3

St. Louis, MO – The tornadoes that swept through southeastern Missouri over the weekend are prompting Jefferson County officials to re-think their storm alert system.

Most larger towns like Festus and De Soto have warning sirens, but there are virtually none in the outlying areas that are home to three-quarters of the county's population.

Emergency services director Brian Counsell says the county cannot afford the $20 million it would take to install a large siren network. For now, he says, they're focusing on smaller measures: "We're practicing our 'Aries,' which is the ham radio communications it's very viable in Jefferson County and we have individuals coming into our Emergency Operations Center to keep their skills going forward on that."

"Maybe I can find a way to budget something that maybe the county can purchase [ham radios] for lower income or shut-ins if the power does go out and they don't have radio or television in their house"

The ham radio operators will train as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. Missouri will conduct a statewide tornado drill today (Tuesday).

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