Emergency Officials Failed to Activate Storm Siren

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AMERICUS, Ga. (AP) - City emergency officials in Americus decided NOT to activate a warning siren minutes before a powerful tornado plowed through the town last week -- killling two people, crippling the hospital and causing widespread property damage.

Officials say a firefighter was dispatched to sound the town's single storm warning siren, mounted atop the Americus Municipal Building. But supervisors ordered the firefighter to abort the mission, fearing it was already too late to sound the alarm.

City Administrator Charlotte Cotton says even if the antique alarm had been sounded, it was only loud enough to be heard in the downtown area and most likely would NOT have been heard over the roar of the tornado.

Cotton says storm trackers estimate the tornado on March first cut a destructive 38-mile-long trail through southwestern Georgia before striking Americus.

In her words, "It's hard to go back and see what might have happened if we had more warning." But she says a countywide warning system is worth looking at, especially if local officials could get help from state or federal disaster agencies.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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