Cordova to receive two new tsunami sirens

Fire Marshal Paul Trumblee displays a new tsunami siren to be installed near Eyak Lake. (Oct. 1, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Fire Marshal Paul Trumblee displays a new tsunami siren to be installed near Eyak Lake. (Oct. 1, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The last time Cordova’s tsunami alert sounded, Janet Johnson only noticed because a neighbor’s dog started howling. Like many residents, Johnson lives so far away from the town’s tsunami sirens that they’re barely audible.

Beginning Oct. 23, however, there will be a new siren operating at the intersection of Le Fevre Drive and Lakeshore Drive, just a block from Johnson’s residence. Another siren will be installed near the intersection of Whitshed Road and Saddle Point Drive.

While not everyone would welcome the installation of a 115-decibel siren feet from their residence, Johnson was pleased to hear of the new safety measure.

“It’s a good thing, especially here,” Johnson said. “You don’t want half the people out here having to have their neighbors come knock on the door. You want to know what’s going on.”

Cordova currently possesses two tsunami sirens. The system at the edge of Cordova Harbor, with its distinctive, disc-shaped speakers, was introduced in 2005. In 2015, a second alarm was installed at the North Fill lot. While the North Fill siren is only able to produce an alarm noise, the harbor speaker can also convey voice announcements. The two new sirens will be of the same model as the one at the North Fill lot.

One of the new sirens is newly manufactured, while the other is being refurbished after 20 years in storage. The newly manufactured siren will be installed on Le Fevre Drive, and the refurbished one on Whitshed Road.

When Fire Marshal Paul Trumblee found that some residents couldn’t hear the alert, he obtained a $49,200 state grant to cover purchasing, refurbishing and installing the speakers. Cordova is well prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis, but would benefit from having additional speakers placed along the coast, he said.

“At 2 o’clock in the morning, when there’s an earthquake and people are sleeping, we want our community to be aware,” Trumblee said.

Like the two existing sirens, the new sirens will be tested for 20 seconds at noon each Wednesday.

“It’s gonna be loud, it’s gonna be annoying during the Wednesday testing, but we’re just going to have to deal with it,” Trumblee said. “We’re trying to make the whole community safe.”

Cordova has been able to obtain grants for safety improvements like new tsunami sirens, fire trucks and an ambulance thanks to its strong relationship with state organizations, Trumblee said.