By Randy Mitchell
ADA — Emergency officials say there are still people who were unprepared for tornadic weather.
Ada Emergency Management Director Gene Linton said when the disaster alarm was sounded last week due to supercells moving through Pontotoc County, 911 dispatch received many calls from people asking what they should do.
Linton urges residents to have a plan before it’s too late. He said the city does not have any public storm shelters.
“I’ve always urged people to have a plan of where to shelter in place,” Linton said. “People need to determine an interior room, obviously with no windows; a bathroom or closet and shelter in place if they don’t have an underground shelter.”
The only structure in Ada open to the public as a storm shelter is the Horrace Mann Building on the campus of East Central University, which is opened as a public service by ECU.
Linton said Valley View Regional Hospital is not a shelter and if people wish to go to Horrace Mann, they should do so before a warning siren is issued.
He said average time between when a siren is sounded and a potential tornado strike is 12 minutes. This is not the time people should be driving around looking for shelter, he said.
All towns in Pontotoc County have disaster sirens. As a general rule, a city’s sirens are sounded to alert residents a tornado warning has been issued for that city. People hearing the alarm when weather is severe should immediately seek shelter and take cover.
Pontotoc County Emergency Management Director Chad Letellier said although it was once common for Ada to sound the alarm for a storm anywhere in the county, that is no longer the case.
“The way Ada used to work is anytime the county went under warning, no matter where it was, they would set their sirens off,” Letellier said. “Gene (Linton) doesn’t do that anymore.”
Linton said Ada’s sirens will only be activated when a tornado warning is issued for the city.
“They will be sounded in the event that any part of the corporate city limits of Ada come under a warning,” Linton said.
Linton said the public should know the sirens are only used as a warning to take cover and never as a signal the storm is over.
“There is no all clear,” Linton said. “I want to emphasize that. If the sirens are sounded and fifteen minutes later they are sounded again, that means that it’s a different supercell.”
Linton said 911 should only be used in an actual emergency. The central dispatch non-emergency number is 580-332-4466.