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Storm Knocks Out Power To Nearly Half Of Nuclear Alert Sirens In York County

Wednesday morning's storms knocked out electricity to thousands of people in the Charlotte area. In York County the storms took down power to many of the sirens Duke Energy uses to notify people in case of a nuclear emergency at its Catawba plant. Forty of eighty-nine sirens lost power Wednesday morning. Duke Energy says it expects to restore electricity to the last few by the end of the day. Cotton Howell, the county's director of emergency management, says having so many sirens out can be a problem in the case of severe weather. "Even though the sirens are placed there primarily because of the nuclear power plant, they've never been used for that. Any time we've used them has always been for tornado warnings and severe weather. That certainly concerns us in that regard in that we've lost one of our alert notification capabilities potentially," says Howell. The sirens are tied to the same electrical grid as the neighborhoods they serve. A Duke Energy spokeswoman says there's no back-up power system for the sirens. The siren sounds the same whether the alert is for a tornado or a nuclear emergency. They are only meant to be heard outdoors. Howell says when the sirens are down the county has a reverse 9-1-1 system to notify people and can alert fire stations to broadcast messages through PA systems. He says many counties like Chester have no sirens.