Apache Corp. Donates $350K for New Oklahoma Sirens

By JOHNNY McMAHAN | April 25, 2012

Woodward, Okla., will soon have a new tornado warning system.

Apache Corp, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and the City of Woodward announced Monday a $350,000 donation from the company to replace the city’s current tornado warning system with new equipment that will include battery backup and redundant controls.

Just a little over a week ago, a tornado ripped through Woodward leaving 6 dead, around 30 injured and some 224 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged.

Officials believe lightning strikes led to power problems that affected the storm sirens as the tornado hit in the early morning hours of April 15. The tornado struck Woodward a little before 12:30 a.m.

The Apache donation will allow the city’s emergency acquisition of a new “state of the art tornado warning system that will continue to operate in the case of an interruption of power,” the company said in its news release.

Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill said, “Apache is a long-term corporate citizen of Woodward. This very generous contribution demonstrates their profound commitment to our community. By dedicating funds to upgrade our early warning systems, Apache is saving lives and we are extremely grateful.”

“The City of Woodward is an important hub for Apache’s operations in western Oklahoma and home for some of our employees,” said Rob Johnson, the company’s Central Region vice president. “Our hearts go out to the families who were impacted by this devastating event. This donation is one way for Apache to help the community rebuild, rebound and be prepared for future tornadoes.”

“This is a tremendous deal,” said Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel. “Apache contacted us and said ‘we want to help in a way that will be long-lasting and meaningful for the community’ and this will certainly do that. Like the mayor said, they’re saving lives by doing this.”

Woodward’s City Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Monday morning to move ahead quickly on purchasing and installing part of the system.

The commission voted to declare an emergency due to storm damage in the current system – 6 of the units are down and 2 of them can’t even be found said Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer – and to take action to waive the competitive bidding act in order to quickly purchase the system.

“The emergency (declaration) speeds up the purchase and allows us to go with what we know works and with a reliable system,” Riffel said.

The city will use Storms Sirens, Inc. out of Norman for the new system.

Plans are to install part of the system this weekend.

The system will include 3 large sirens with a 3-mile radius set up in strategic points in the heart of the community and 20 1-mile sirens – 16 new and 4 retrofitted – set up at major intersections in Woodward and along the major highways.

The 3 large sirens are scheduled to be installed Saturday and Sunday, Riffel said.

They will be set up around 34th and Downs, near the armory building at Crystal Beach Park (which is being utilized as the emergency operations center) and Broadmoor and Cedar. Sirens will come with cages over the horn to keep debris and birds out of them.

The remainder of the system will be put in place over the next 2 months.

In addition to the city, there should be siren coverage for about a mile outside of the city in every direction.

Riffel said there are plenty of backups in both the system and staff wise. The sirens all have a 30-minute battery backup and “we are increasing the number of officials who can call for the sirens to go off,” Riffel said.

When the new system is used, people should be able to hear it.

“We want to go from faintly being able to hear the sirens (in some areas) to people definitely knowing they have heard the sirens,” Riffel said.

With the placement of the sirens, the goal is to have several that will cover an area should a siren go out, Lehenbauer said.

Lehenbauer said the total cost for the new system is right at $350,000, which the Apache donation will cover.

“We can’t thank Apache enough for this donation,” Lehenbauer said.

The emergency management director and city officials continued to stress that the sirens are just one of the 3 layers of protection citizens should use. It is important to have a weather radio and also there is the cell-phone notification system that went into place the first of April.

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