Cooperative effort brings Weather Radio
to southwest Missouri
by Jim McCarty
On March 27, 1994,
a series of tornadoes struck the southeastern United States killing 43
people, including 20 gathered for Palm Sunday services in an Alabama church.
The National Weather
Service had issued a tornado warning for that area nearly 15 minutes before
the tornado struck. Unfortunately, those who perished never heard the
warning. They had gathered
in a rural area out of range of the warning city dwellers heard on Weather
Krudwig, retired technical specialist for the National Weather Service,
speaks during dedication of two new Weather Radio transmitters donated
by electric cooperatives in Southwest Missouri. Standing with Krudwig
are Jon McClure, manager of Osage Valley Electric Co-op and Ben Harper,
manager of Sac-Osage Electric.
When the "voice
of the National Weather Service" was completed in the late 1970s, funds
dried up before most rural areas were served. Population centers would
get the warnings. But just like in the days before rural electrification,
rural people were left out.
It took the tragedy
in Alabama to focus attention on the gaps in weather warning coverage.
Then-Vice President Al Gore called for a public-private partnership to
finish the long-dormant project.
cooperatives were the first to heed the call.
Seven years later
Missouri has moved another significant step closer to the goal of 100
percent coverage for weather warnings. On May 11, electric cooperatives
in southwest Missouri helped dedicate two new Weather Radio transmitters
that will provide coverage for Cedar, Henry, St. Clair, Vernon and surrounding
They were joined
by officials from the National Weather Service, the state and federal
emergency management agencies and county officials to celebrate the historic
event. At the appropriate time warning tones were broadcast across the
Weather Radio band.
Ben Harper, manager
of Sac-Osage Electric Co-op, Jon
McClure, manager of Osage Valley
Electric Co-op, and Chris Cariker, manager of KAMO
Power took turns speaking over the network.
Their voices went
out over two transmitters recently donated and installed at electric co-op
facilities, one at the KAMO district office in El Dorado Springs and the
other at Shawnee Mound in Henry County. The
event capped years of work involving the three electric co-ops, the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Associated
Electric Cooperative, the State
Emergency Management Agency and the National
cooperative involvement was generated by some very tragic events," said
Frank Stork, executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric
Cooperatives. "After that it was decided we needed to get these warning
systems set up in rural areas. The electric cooperatives stepped forward
and said, 'We think we can do that.' "
An early meeting
with the State Emergency Management Agency showed co-ops already had radio
towers in areas that were natural locations for new Weather Radio sites.
So the electric cooperatives offered free use of tower space and upped
the ante by purchasing and powering the transmitters as well.
"Can you imagine
what this would cost if you had to build the tower?" asked Buck Katt,
assistant director for SEMA. "The key to success in the state of Missouri
has been the electric co-ops."
90 percent of the state now has Weather Radio coverage. That compares
with just 50 percent coverage two years ago when a flurry of new transmitters
were donated by electric cooperatives.
The new transmitters
bring the total donated by electric co-ops to 11.
And the job's
not done. A third southwest Missouri transmitter, serving the Branson
area, will soon operate thanks to the efforts of White
River Valley Electric Co-op. Citizens
Electric in Ste. Genevieve will soon bring a new one on line. NW
Electric Power Co-op, based in Cameron, has new transmitters in the
works for Cameron, Carrollton, Trenton and Maryville.
"A project like
this doesn't just happen," said Cariker. "When you get your electric bill
stop and remember that these electric co-ops do a lot more for you in
these communities than just deliver electricity."
These new sites
will improve safety for thousands of rural people, said Larry Krudwig,
a technical specialist with the National Weather Service before his recent
"I have a passion
for this program because I firmly believe that even though you have the
most perfect warning in the world, that warning is of no value unless
those who are at risk know about that warning and as a result do something
to protect themselves," he said.
Co-op already plans to donate receivers to area schools, emergency response
organizations, senior centers, nursing homes and hospitals. Osage Valley
Electric's board will consider similar steps at its next board meeting.
are unique in that they can sound a piercing alarm when severe weather
threatens. Unlike other radio and TV broadcasts, Weather Radio can save
your life by waking you up in time to seek shelter.
allows the warnings to pinpoint individual counties.
"We look forward
to knowing that when we issue a warning there is a real chance that someone
out there will hear that warning and be protected," Krudwig said.
For more information
about Weather Radio check out the National Weather Service Web site at