Severe weather a possibility Thursday

Central Alabama, including Talladega and St. Clair counties, is facing another threat of severe weather Thursday night. 

TALLADEGA COUNTY -- Talladega County was spared the last line of storms that blew through the South over Palm Sunday weekend, but with another line possibly coming through later this week, it is best for residents to be prepared.

According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, much of central Alabama will be facing the possibility of tornadoes and damaging winds up to 60 miles per hour between 4 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Friday.

Should those storms reach Talladega County, residents who have to evacuate should make sure they know where the nearest shelter is. According to Talladega County Emergency Management Specialist I LeighAnn Butler, there are a dozen shelters, known as Community Safe Rooms, scattered throughout the county and generally operated by the local volunteer fire department.

There are two shelters in Munford, one at 825 Carter St. and one at 115 Main St. Childersburg also has two, at 85 Graves Ave. in the Childersburg Parks and Recreation Center and one at 700 Heasletts Road, outside the city limits. The latter is operated by the Lay Lake VFD.

The others are at 4445 Kings Chapel Road in Alpine, operated by the Lanier VFD; Oak Grove VFD Community Storm Shelter at 390 Landers Loop; Coosa Valley Rescue Squad Community Shelter at 1410 Edwards St. in Sylacauga; 4075 Ironaton Road; 3550 Providence Road; 7191 Renfroe Road, which is the basement of the Renfroe Volunteer Fire Department; 135 Rock Church Road, operated by Stemley VFD; and 1375 Bullocks Ferry Road, operated by Winterboro VFD.

EMA does not list any community shelters in the city of Talladega, but according to City Manager Beth Cheeks and fire Chief Danny Warwick, the Spring Street Recreation Center has been the municipality’s designated shelter for some time.

Should the Spring Street Recreation Center fill up, the B.N. Mabra Center becomes the backup shelter, Warwick said.

Butler said all of the shelters work more or less the same way. The volunteers or agencies responsible for each shelter have the keys, and the shelters are opened whenever there is a tornado watch or other serious impending weather event.

In the case of Spring Street, Warwick said, the Fire Department would contact the Parks and Recreation Department to open the shelters. He added that, as city manager, Cheeks could also declare a city emergency that would result in Spring Street and other shelters possibly being opened, but in those circumstances, the city is responsible for providing water and other necessities to those sheltering.

Warwick added residents can also come to City Hall and ask to be sheltered at the Talladega Fire Department, which is in the basement.

He also recommends everyone either getting a First Alert weather radio or downloading an emergency phone app to keep informed. The emergency sirens are still operational, but he said it is always best to have a contingency.

Butler said EMA does not have the ability to notify all residents in a given area, so the agency has to rely on social media pushes and broadcasting.

Specifically, EMA recommends following @ReadyTalladega and @NWSBirmingham on Facebook and Twitter. You can also text your zip code to 888777 for mobile text alerts and download the Alabama Saf-T-Net app to your smartphone. Have batteries handy for a NOAA Weather Radio if you have one, and tune to SAME Code 001121, frequency 162.475.

Butler added the county shelters were purchased with federal funds more than a decade ago. Each is meant to hold 50 to 100 people at a time.