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Telephones to be used for tornado warnings

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GLENPOOL, Okla. (AP) -- In addition to blaring sirens and screeching weather-radio alerts, local residents will now have another way of learning about approaching tornadoes: they will get a telephone call.

The City Council has approved a contract with Media Weather Innovations in Colorado, which will alert residents only when a tornado warning is issued specifically for Glenpool, City Manager Ed Tinker said.

Only Glenpool residents within a tornado warning area issued by the National Weather Service will be alerted. The calls are automatically made as the information is disseminated over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Wire, said Valerie Ritterbusch, Media Weather Innovations vice president and meteorologist.

The program is a partnership with television station KTUL.

Tinker said the contract with the Colorado company is the first for any city or town in the country.

"We know now that that 80-year-old person is now going to get that call alerting them that a tornado may be nearby," he said. "This will automatically ring all 911 landlines in Glenpool when a tornado warning is issued."

The cost of the system is $20,000 to $22,000, or about $3.50 per landline, depending on how many residents will take part in the program. Residents can opt out of the program if they don't want to receive the call.

The system won't replace the 10 storm sirens positioned throughout Glenpool, a city of about 8,000 people, 14 miles south of Tulsa. The cost of putting the town's landline telephones on the new system is about the same as buying a new storm siren.

"With this system, our residents in the path of the storm will receive the warning, while others outside the tornado warning polygon might not," Tinker said. "Calls are made first to those closest to the storm, and then those directly in the path of the storm."

The service has been particularly welcomed by the older population, Ritterbusch said.

"Most won't listen to a weather radio, but they will answer the phone," she said.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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