On Monday, June 8th, Congressman Bart Gordon and Congressman Lincoln Davis, held a roundtable discussion in Murfreesboro, which was hit by a deadly twister on Easter weekend of this year. Meeting with weather experts from across Tennessee, including Macon County EMS Director and Fire Chief Keith Scruggs, the informative conference was organized to discuss the early prediction of tornadoes, communication, and response methods.
“Our state has led the nation in tornado fatalities over the past ten years, but we do have the weapon of technology,” said Gordon, who is Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee.
As you may recall, on February 5th, 2008 a powerful tornado swept through Middle Tennessee, killing 18 people here in Macon County, and destroying hundreds of homes and damaging over 1,000 more.
“We spent years planning and training for a natural disaster, but we just couldn’t foresee something of this magnitude,” said Chief Scruggs, “but we’re proud of the work we accomplished along with all the community leaders and the private citizens as well.”
“This was the second deadliest tornado in Tennessee’s history, and we had local elections going on in Macon County that night,” Scruggs continued “This factor along with the news being on over television, got people into the places they needed to be.”
“But personally, I also think God stepped in on that deadly night, because the glow in the south from the Columbia Gulf Fire, lit up the sky enabling people to see first hand just how close the tornado was, giving them a little extra time to seek shelter.”
“It’s crucial for people in the path of severe weather to be alerted promptly,” Scruggs emphasized, “because believe me, early warning is the key to surviving.”
Experts at the roundtable also discussed new technology, such as Phased Array Radar and Warn-On Forecasts, which would enable meteorologists to provide more accurate forecasts more quickly and reduce false alarms.
Also participating in the roundtable discussion were Ron Howes, Chief Meteorologist, News Channel 5, Nashville; Mayor Tommy Bragg, Murfreesboro; Larry Vannozzi, Meteorologist-in-charge, National Weather Service, Nashville office; Davis Nolan, Meteorologist, WKRN-News 2; Percy Phifer, EMA Director for Warren County; Lisa Spencer, Meteorologist, WSMV-Channel 4; and Arch Kennedy, Chief Meteorologist, WZTV-FOX 17, Nashville.
“The national warning time averages 14 minutes for tornadoes,” Scruggs noted, “but we’re hoping with all the advanced technology, to someday extent this to 30 minutes. I want to see the federal government concentrate on improving weather awareness and response to severe weather events in small rural communities.”
“I would love for every household in our area to have a weather radio and I can foresee community shelters being built in out lying areas such as Galen, Hillsdale, Westside and Akersville. We now have the emergency siren here in town activated and we hope to have full coverage in Macon County in the coming months.”
“Since the storm, even though you still see scars, our community has rebounded, with probably 90 percent of the structures rebuilt. We’re certainly proud of how far we’ve come and we hope in the event of another disaster, we will be able to save more lives with advanced warnings.”
“I’m really proud to work with Bart Gordon’s office, and it was an honor to serve on the panel and discuss weather politics. I think it will have a positive effect on our ability to receive more grant money and aid, to improve tornado forecasting and response in Macon County.”