Panama City Beach City Council to revisit new tornado warning system

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Damaging winds, heavy rain, and three tornadoes blew through Bay County over the weekend. That was just days after the Panama City Beach City Council decided not to move forward with a new tornado warning system.

“Unfortunately there are weather events that happen and we just have to figure out the best way to alert them,” Councilman Paul Casto said.

Casto said his view is the same as last week. He believes the priority should go towards water safety, especially since Bay County has an alert system in place. But, the council is open to discussing a tornado warning system again.

“I understand we will be talking about this at our next council meeting,” said Casto.

They would be talking about how they would fund these systems and how they would maintain them. During the presentation last week, Fire Chief Ray Morgan said a simpler system would start around $85,000 and a full-coverage system would potentially approach $150,000.

“If there is a better way of doing it and that’s something we can afford or get grant funding on, I’d certainly be open to that,” said Casto.

Bay County Emergency Services Chief Brad Monroe said the county has looked into other systems before, like sirens.

“It’s very costly to implement those systems,” said Monroe.

Monroe said they did not feel sirens were necessary countywide and it’s up to each individual city to determine that.

“You have to weigh the expenses for the times it will be needed,” said Monroe.

Casto says while the city doesn’t currently have tornado warning systems, the county’s emergency notification system works very well.

Both Casto and Monroe say the best way people in Bay County can get weather alerts is to sign up for Alert Bay.

“Alert Bay did a fantastic job. I haven’t talked to anybody yet that wasn’t notified on Saturday through their cell phone,” said Casto.

“I think I got about a grand total of 20 alerts during that process, but it was all good information,” said Monroe.

The question for the Panama City Beach city council is whether a tornado warning system should be added to those alerts.

To sign up for Alert Bay, visit their website Alert Bay. Monroe said they’re also working with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to use billboards for alerts in the near future.

You can also download WJHG’s weather app.

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