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Sugar Hill's test of new weather warning sirens proves to be successful

SUGAR HILL -- City Councilman Curtis Northrup said his son, Albert, was excited to tell his dad some good news after school Friday.

The noise he and classmates heard loud and clear around lunchtime comforted them. Sugar Hill's test of its six newly installed weather warning sirens -- particularly the one nearest Northrup on North Price Road -- assured students they'd know of dangerous weather in Gwinnett County's third largest city.

Now, Sugar Hill's roughly 18,500 residents know the pitch of a steady wail for three minutes that will alert them to severe weather in general, and that a blast for 10-second intervals will signal potential tornados.

"I haven't spoken to anybody who didn't know what (the test) sounds were," Northrup said at Monday's monthly council meeting. "(My son) thought it was pretty cool."

Roughly six feet tall, four feet in diameter and mounted atop telephone poles, the sirens were installed from Northrup's area in southern Sugar Hill, north to Gary Pirkle Park, east to Ga. Highway 20 near Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, and west to Sugar Hill Golf Course.

Bought with a $136,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the sirens are networked to satellites from an antenna atop city hall on West Broad Street downtown. They can be activated by the National Weather Service or by city personnel. They alert with sound, as well as by text message, fax and email for residents who sign up with the city.

City Manager Bob Hail said city hall still fielded some inquisitive calls once Friday's testing began, despite announcement of the test since the sirens' installation weeks earlier. Community relations director Don Kelemen joked that no motorists seemed unnerved by testing of the siren near the Highway 20 railroad bridge by Peachtree Industrial.

"Kudos to Bob and his staff for getting these sirens in, up and operational," Northrup said.

The city plans to test the sirens at noon on the first Wednesday of every month.