Do you live in a rural community without a tornado warning siren?
“Right now we have money. We can help as many [communities] as come to us,” said Phil Lehmkuhler, Indiana’s rural development state director for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Lehmkuhler is referring to millions of dollars in Community Facilities funds that USDA allocates to Indiana and other states annually. It is intended to help small towns – those with fewer than 20,000 residents – pay for important building projects, and grants and loans available through the program can be used to purchase new tornado sirens.
In recent years, the program has been used in Indiana to purchase sirens only once.
In 2007, the Town of Silver Lake in northern Indiana used USDA community facilities grants to purchase two outdoor warning sirens.
“The sirens were only in for three or four days before we had to set them off because of a tornado warning,” said Silver Lake town marshal Craig Hollopeter. “Small communities like us; we don’t have the funds for something like this. There is no way this community would have been able to afford it.”
“I was surprised to see there are so many towns that don’t have any sirens at all,” Lehmkuhler said. “We want communities to know they can contact us and we can help you … one community at a time, that’s what we’ll try to do.”