Emergency management: Tornado sirens are outdated

Emergency officials: Tornado sirens are outdated

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - It has become a familiar sound in Oklahoma, but a tornado siren isn't something we would hear in the Lowcountry because there aren't any. While emergency officials say the reason is cost, they also say sirens are becoming a technology of the past.

Strawberry Mobile Home Park in Berkeley County was destroyed in 2008 after a tornado tore through it leaving 16 families without a home.

The devastation was caused by an EF2. An EF5, which is the worst, has never touched down in South Carolina.

"EF5 is over 200 mph, and it's catastrophic damage," explains chief meteorologist Bill Walsh.

The state is not a stranger to tornados. South Carolina actually ranks eighth in the country based on its square mileage.

"It is not unheard of to get a tornado here," says Walsh. Certainly, we could see two, three sometimes a year depending on what part the Lowcountry, I'm talking Lowcountry specific."

Yet there isn't a single siren in the Lowcountry. Chief of operations for emergency management in Charleston says the issue has always been cost.

"They only cover a certain radius around each siren location, and it would just be economically unfeasible for us to have sirens that could cover the entire county," says Cathy Haynes, the chief of operations for Charleston County's Emergency Management Department.

Haynes says sirens aren't the best option. She says they're inefficient, reach a limited number of people, and can't be heard in most homes, schools, and businesses. She encourages people to buy a NOAA radio.

"That is probably the best way to get any type of weather alerts or warnings from the National Weather Service office."

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, 63 people have been killed in tornados between 1950 and 2012.