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Kokomo Standing By Weather Radios Over Tornado Sirens

Kokomo does not have tornado sirens and instead relies on weather radios.

Roommates Drew Larrick and Taylor Glenna weren’t sure how much attention they should pay to the warnings they heard Sunday.

“It’s just something that you think could never happen to you,” Larrick says.

It was business as usual as they hung around the house not knowing a tornado packing wind speeds of nearly 130 miles per hour was headed their way.

“His mom called and said you got three minutes and we grabbed the TV and ran to the kitchen,” Glenna says. “We were going to go the basement, and his brother called and said you guys have one minute  so we ran down there.”

Drew’s mom and brother were listening to a weather radio.

“I heard a loud bang and we just ran down stairs and as soon as we got down there the windows exploded, and I jumped on the mattress and he jumped back there,” Glenna says, pointing to a part of the basement that is now covered with debris. “I heard the house creak and I looked up and it just came right at us and I closed my eyes and the next thing I looked up I could see the sky.”

The tornado lifted their house 30 feet, spun it, and threw it down buckled and twisted on to the other end of the yard. They took refuge in the now exposed basement, which is nothing more than a mess of cinder blocks, splintered wood and wet furniture.

Kokomo Mayor Says Weather Radios Still Best Option

Kokomo is unprotected by tornado sirens.

Instead Mayor Greg Goodnight says the community relies on the media and weather radios.

“I’ve never been a fan of tornado sirens. They are very limited it’s an outdoor warning device weather radios are in your home – you can take it with you,” he says.

It has a battery back up, they are, wherever you are you can take that with you, and you don’t have to rely on towers,” he says.

Goodnight has been the driving force behind a program that has distributed thousands of weather radios to Kokomo residents.

Rhonda Applegate sells the radios at Orscheln Farm and Home Store in Ellettsville. She says they always see a spike in sales after a severe storm.

“It’ll tell you exactly where it’s at and when it’s inclement and when we should seek shelter and when it’s time to seek shelter, again, the design of this is to save your life” she says.

Tornado sirens can cost $25,000 each and have a reach of approximately a half mile. Goodnight says he’s done the research and still after this week’s devastating tornadoes says they aren’t worth the investment.

“The weather radio is your best source for any inclement weather. Tornado sirens are limited to tornadoes, weather radios could be for flooding or any other natural disaster so they are much more effective and much more personal and people are able to have access to them,” he says.

The Kokomo program cuts the cost of weather radios by about two thirds. The city buys radios in bulk that would normally retail for about $30.  They sell them to residents for $8.

Goodnight says it’s like having a tornado siren in your home.

Larrick and Glenna just moved into their home two months ago and say they never got around to getting one of the radios.

“Really his brother saved our lives, cause we were upstairs and literally we got down and within 30 seconds the house was just over there,” Glenna says.

As the two go through the piles of rubble and work to salvage what they can – they’re faced with the reality that they’ll likely be moving back in with their parents.

“I don’t know how much more you can prepare for something like this,” Larrick says.