September 18, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
67°F

Public opinion sought on sirens after three tornadoes sweep Brunswick

BRUNSWICK — Just as a tornado touched down around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and began tearing a seven-mile path across Liverpool Township and into Brunswick Hills Township, warning sirens sounded across much of Medina County.

But in Brunswick — which already had been hit with a twister last month — sirens remained silent because the city deactivated them nearly six years ago.

Brunswick City Council is expected to discuss re-activating the sirens during a committee-of-the-whole meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

This National Weather Service map shows the paths of the three tornadoes that struck the Brunswick area in the last month. (MAP PROVIDED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

This National Weather Service map shows the paths of the three tornadoes that struck the Brunswick area in the last month. (MAP PROVIDED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

The tornado that struck Tuesday packed winds of up to 94 miles per hour, and stayed on the ground for 7.3 miles, lifting near Marks Road just as it approached the Brunswick City limits.

At large Councilman Brain Ousley said the city’s sirens, which were turned off in 2008 after a hacker broke into the computer system and set them off as a prank, said the city’s residents need more warning about approaching tornadoes.

The city uses a “CodeRed service” that provides alerts to home and cell phones but residents must sign up to get the warnings.

“The phone calls are good, but they’re not reaching everyone,” Ousley said. “I’ve wanted to get the sirens up and running for the last two years now.”

The city has brought up restoring the sirens before, but balked at the cost, estimated at about $80,000, to upgrade the computer software to prevent another hacker attack.

“I’m tired of being told they can’t fix them because the money isn’t in the budget,” said Ousley, who chairs the committee on services, utilities and technology. “We need to find the money. Our residents are too important.”

Councilman Vince Carl, who represents the city’s Ward 2 and is chairman of the committee-of-the-whole, said he expected a discussion on sirens today, but cautioned he thinks more residents would prefer to see the money spent fixing roads.

“It’s the residents’ money, and we’ll spend it how the residents want,” Carl said. “But I get more calls about fixing roadways than sirens.”

Carl said in order to fix the sirens this year, the money would have to come from the city’s general fund, meaning it would result in cuts to other general fund spending, including road repairs.

“We don’t begin collecting road levy money until next year,” Carl said. “To fix the roads this year, we’re using the general fund. Fixing sirens would also come out of the general fund.”

The tornado that hit Tuesday afternoon was the first of a pair of tornadoes to hit the northern portion. The same line of storms resulted in a second tornado that touched down about 15 minutes later in Hinckley Township damaging roofs and trees along a half-mile stretch near the intersection of Ridge and Boston roads.

On June 23, Brunswick was hit by an EF1 tornado that came without any warning, seriously damaging more than 10 homes in Carl’s ward.

Ousley said he also plans to discuss the sirens during his service, utilities and technology committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. He said he doesn’t think Council will have enough time to devote to the subject during the committee-of-the-whole meeting today.

“There’s a lot to discuss — how to fund it, when to activate them,” Ousley said. “We need to sit down with the administration and decide what direction to go in.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorengenson.