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River sirens change to clear up confusion

By Michael Butler

In recent months, new sirens along the Tallapoosa River have become an indicator of a changes in water flow downstream in Tallassee due to generation of electricity. There has been an issue though. Locals have had trouble differentiating between those sirens and the city's severe weather alert sirens.

There should be clarity now. Alabama Power has changed the sound of its sirens, so those who hear them will know the difference.

"The warning sirens will (have) a high low tone," Alabama Power Thurlow superintendent Joel Johnson said. "This is so they won't be confused with the weather siren anymore."

The sirens are a safety mechanism for notifying those recreating on the waterway of immenent changes in water flow.

"Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked us to work with the city and try to come up with ways to make it safer," Johnson said. "We looked at several different programs and did a lot of work with the city having a lot of meetings with them.

"We added one siren almost a mile downstream where our power crosses the river. The second siren is at the AES boat ramp. The siren that's mounted on the dam, you can hear to the middle school but not much further. All three sirens are consistent in sound. It's real easy to change that tone."

Thurlow Dam gets its signal from Birmingham.

"It takes about two or three minutes for a unit to go from loading to generating mode which is water coming through the turbine. It takes about 30 minutes to get downstream to AES boat ramp. If you hear that siren, it's plenty of time to get out of the water. Any time we get ready to load a unit or activate a spillway, you'll hear that siren."